On The Fringes

Yes I am a terrible person and I’ve let far too long of a time elapse between the last blog post and this blog post. I’m sorry. It turns out that the fringe is actually a fairly busy time. Who saw that one coming?

So, here it goes, a DOUBLE BILL of updates on what we’ve been up to. Strap yourselves in kids, it’s going to be an exciting ride.

Tour-tured souls

When we last updated you, we had just left Balloch, our second to last location on tour, and headed out to Dollar, our sixteenth location, and our final stop before the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The rain continued to pour down, and everything in the van was damp. We were sick and tired of living in a house with wheels, and honestly, if I had to shower in another public bathroom I would have stabbed someone in the face.

Fortunately, I didn’t!

Everyone has worked so hard with this project, and I am constantly blown away by the intensity and quality of the work that everyone has been doing. Plus they’re all great people, who probably don’t deserve being made to live in a van for two months in the name of theatre.

So it was time for a little treat. It wasn’t much, and it certainly wasn’t designed for 6 people, but Thrum’s Cottage in Dollar was absolutely perfect to us. To start with, it had four walls and it didn’t have wheels. There wasn’t black mould and broken ceramic in the shower. And, most importantly, we had an oven.

Seriously though cooking for 6 people for this long, you have no idea how much I’ve missed using an oven.

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Even Vanny was feeling a little tired to be honest…

OH ALSO A TV.

I’d spent the last few days telling everyone that I’d found some really nice public showers for Dollar (lol pranked) so they were sufficiently surprised when we pulled up outside the cottage and unlocked the door.

We spent our first day as always, handing out flyers and putting up posters. And our second day was very much the same – we were very much excited for our final performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Now look okay, I’m not going to complain about this too much. To be honest, when talking about the weather that we’ve had this summer, I don’t think that we could have been luckier – this had to be one of the driest summers in recorded history. Still though, it’s tough when it starts raining, and it’s even tougher when that meant we needed to cancel our show.

And it’s even harder when we sit by our performance location and see about fifteen people turn up, willing to brave the pouring rain to see our show, and we have to tell them that it’s been cancelled.

We went home and WATCHED A MOVIE ON OUR TV (luxury) and subtly waited for midnight – that made it the 31st of July, the last day of tour, and our lovely Rowan’s birthday. Of course, we made a massive fuss then, as well as in the morning when we brought her breakfast in bed (did I mention that this cottage had like…different rooms and everything) that included a cake and candles. The rest of the morning was very slow, and unfortunately we had to cancel the show again due to the weather.

Not to worry though, we made a fairly elaborate dinner, and then went to the movies to celebrate everything that we had achieved thus far, as well as Rowan’s birthday. We intended to see The Incredibles 2, but it was sold out, so we just went to see Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again instead.

What a terrible film. Nuff said.

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And just like that, it was all over…

Then, we came home, went to bed, and that was it – it was time to drive back to St Andrews for us to go our separate ways. We had about a week until we needed to be up in Edinburgh, and a recharge was desperately needed.

Tour part 2 – BoxedIn returns

Our time in Edinburgh so far has been incredibly hectic, truth be told. As everyone began arriving in drips and drabs, we were all still a little tired and worn out – we needed to bounce back a little bit to be ready.

We did a boozey line-run of both the shows on the 7th (a real fun time – you forget your line, you take a drink. Simple, and not at all effective), and then scrambled to set up the tent on the 8th, as well as doing a run of both of the shows. And then, it was time to begin.

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Work hard, play hard, as always.

Our first show was at 15:20 on the 9th – we had an awards assessor for the Scottish Arts Club and a reviewer coming to that show. Not nervous at all.

Honestly, I’d managed the time a little poorly here – I arrived at 14:20 because we were having an issue with some of the ivy, and by the time we had it fixed it was already 3 o’clock. So, after not having performed for over a week, we were left with a twenty minute warm-up. Great work Oli.

It showed in the show – we were going in cold and we definitely weren’t as prepared as we should have been.

Bounce back time – we assembled again at 18:15 for our 18:45 show and managed to sneak in a slightly longer warm up. That combined with the fact that we had already performed that day, and the fact we knew that it wasn’t exactly our best performance, to create a strange, excited energy in the tent just before the audience came in. We had another assessor from the Scottish Arts Club coming to this show, and I’ll be damned if we weren’t going to blow their socks off.

Evidently we did, because we’ve since been short-listed for the Scottish Arts Club Theatre Awards (WHOOP WHOOP LITERALLY WHAT THAT IS SO EXCITING). That was actually one of our best runs of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and I was so incredibly proud of everyone for their work that day.

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And we’ve managed to squeeze some flyering in too!

Since then, we’ve been doing well with the shows – we’re selling really well for A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the moment, which is super exciting. Less well for To The Ocean, but I think that’s to be expected as its new writing. The 10th and 11th went well, and I think we’re really starting to get in to the swing of things. And of course, seeing some fantastic shows in every spare moment.

Highlights include The Archive of Educated Hearts, an intimiate storytelling experience by Lion House Theatre, a group that inspired our show To The Ocean, and Police Cops in Space because those guys are just amazing.

Today has been interesting too – but I’m sure Grace will let you know all about it in our next blog post. Which I promise, will come much sooner this time.

Last thing – if anyone is up at the fringe with shows or anything, let us know! We’d love to come see it!

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And the heavens opened …

When Oli left you, we’d arrived in the beautiful town of Balloch. It was a scorcher of a day, and as we sat in the park writing on our flyers we took the necessary precautions and lathered up in sun cream. After all the flyers had been dropped off it was still a barmy summer’s day, so we did what any sane person would do at 4:30 on a sunny Thursday, we went to the pub. I was so hyped for my first PImms of the year, and Oli and I had decided to share a jug. The price, however, did not quite fit into my budget. You’ve got to give it to The Tullie Inn though because they do have a lovely selection of VERY reasonably priced gin, so it was a rhubarb gin and tonic for me!

Once the temperature had cooled a bit, we’d drunk our drinks, and made use of the pub’s free Wifi, we headed back to the van. The Balloch House Hotel had kindly let us stay in their car park, so we were super, super close to our performance location on the grass just behind their pub. This lovely spot provided us with a wonderful view of the lake. As team cook began our preparations for dinner, we were just in awe of how beautiful everything was.

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Look at us all being so domestic!

This serenity, however, did not last for long. We arrived in Balloch with the threat of rain was looming over us. We didn’t believe it when we arrived because it was so warm. But on Saturday morning when we awoke, there were some VERY dark clouds looming over us. After a quick shower at the Duncan Mills memorial slipway, 50p for 5 minutes is a pretty good rate. On a side note, here’s a rant about something that has been bothering me: During the course of this tour we used many a campsite/public shower, and what I can tell you from our extensive fieldwork is that normally you have to pay 50p-£1 for 4 minutes. Now this has always bothered me, why 4 minutes? Who decided that 4 minutes was enough time? That is such a random number, and this was evidently decided by someone with incredibly short hair, because no way is 4 minutes long enough to wash your hair! Anyway, I digress, after we were nice and clean, Ana and I headed over to Loch Lommand Shores shopping centre to commence flyering. The weather was quite overcast, and it seemed that not many people wanted to do shopping on a grey Friday. But we did manage to hand out a couple of flyers to some very enthusiastic people, which is always good!

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I have never been to a shopping centre that had such a beautiful view.

After our flyering shift, Ana and I headed back to the Tullie Inn. (Did I mention they had good, reasonably priced coffee, and free Wifi). The rain that had been a mild threat for the past couple of days, now seemed like a very, very real possibility. We were later joined by Oli and Rowan who had finished their flyering shift. All of us took it in turns to look worryingly out of the window and see if the rain had started. We even began to actively NOT learn from ‘To The Ocean’, saying things like ‘at least it’s not raining’, and ‘aw, I really hope it doesn’t rain’ in a futile attempt to get the weather to make up its mind and rain now so that it would be dry in time for our show. If you have been following this tour and are a regular reader of our blog posts, you will know that rain and our tent are a no. Not because it can’t withstand rain, but because we cannot pack away a damp tent into our little van. That will cause two very big problems, a mouldy tent, and possibly some very ill actors!

It got to 5:00pm, call time, and the rain had not yet descended so we set about warming up, BUT crucially we didn’t erect the tent. The plan was to leave that task to the last minute so that we could make sure our lovely tent would not get wet. This, we believed, was a solid plan. It got to 6:30pm and the promised rain had not arrived, so we put the tent up. At around 6:55pm however, the heavens opened. We all sprinted to the tent and managed to take it down in a couple of minutes before it got wet. The whole dissembling process didn’t take longer than five minutes, and although we were definitely given a kick up the butt by the fact that we didn’t want to be caught in a storm, the ease of the process must also be attributed to the fab Bell Tent Boutique, who have made their tents so easy to use!

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The best tent-protection team one could ask for!

Once everything was packed away we dragged our soggy bodies to the Tullie Inn again. Another problem with the rain, apart from just getting wet, is that we cannot cook because we do that outside too. So that meant we just HAD to treat ourselves to a pub dinner. We were also joined by Balloch local (and friend) Colin, so you know, we REALLY had to treat ourselves. Especially considering he’d come to see us perform and we were not able to put on a show for him! All our food was delicious, even if Adam did have to wait a while for his crumble! And we all finished the evening feeling like maybe we’d eaten slightly too much food (and maybe spent a bit too much money). Colin left us just after 9, and we stayed in the pub for one more drink to keep out of the rain, and YES for the free WiFi. When we left the pub, the rain had well and truly started, there were streams instead of roads, and by the time we’d made the short walk back to the van, my feet were well and truly soaked. (My shoes are still not dry in case anyone’s interested.)

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We do love a good bit of pub food.

The next morning, we did not wake to rain, but the clouds overhead promised that rain would soon be upon us. So, Oli and Rowan made the decision to cancel that evening’s show. There was a strange mix of relief (we didn’t have to spend all day anxiously waiting to see if it rained or not) and disappointment because we had to cancel both of our shows. But all was not lost because Rowan came up with a brilliant plan, we would perform ‘Play On!’ in any pub that was willing to take us at such short notice. I mean, it is supposed to be the ‘Back of the Van’ trilogy afterall! So after an afternoon of boring office work, which included sorting things out for the Edinburgh Fringe, tickets to both ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and ‘To The Ocean’ are selling well guys so go and get yours now, we did our first proper performance of ‘Play On!’ and it was a success.

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I promise we do all really enjoy rehearsing ‘Play On!’

The weather, however, was still rubbish which meant we couldn’t cook, and after the previous night’s expensive meal we could not afford another pub dinner. BUT if you will cast your mind back to our adventures in Eyemouth you will remember Rowan and Hanna’s quest to find a pizza crunch that had ended in disappointment. So, our choice of dinner establishment was made for us, we headed to the chippy for a nice cheap dinner, and Rowan introduced Ana and Hanna to the Scottish delicacy of the pizza crunch. Once our dinner had been eaten we headed back to the Tullie Inn as we had kindly been offered free drinks for our performance, and the game that has been known to ruin friendships and relationships returned, Monopoly Deal. We played a couple of rounds, had a couple of drinks, and then headed back to the van for a relatively early night.

On Sunday morning we awoke to yet more rain, but this did not put a dampener on our spirits because we were travelling to our last location Dollar. After nearly two months of travelling, Oli uttered for the last time ‘and to Aldi’, and we set off on the road again. I’ll let Oli fill you in on everything that occurred in Dollar, but here are some spoilers, we have had a very special person’s birthday, AND Oli surprised us all with something very, very nice!

 

 

Learning Something New

Over the last few days, we’ve been in Douglas. It boasts a population of over a thousand, making it far off from the smallest place we’ve visited, but don’t be fooled by the statistics. For its beautiful location, this place is a bit of a ghost town.

Where IS everyone?!

We pulled up in Douglas and had to double check the sat-nav at first. When we arrived, there was not a single person visible either on the streets or in their houses. And it was quiet. I set about trying to find an optimal performance location, and as I roamed around the town, it was still fairly sparse. Somewhat understandably, this was a little disheartening – it’s a little boring performing without an audience.

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Ghost town.

I had scoped out a specific performance location before, so went to check up on it – on my way, I veered off route a little, and ended up at the St. Bride’s Community Centre. And then our time in Douglas really kicked off.

For such a seemingly quiet town, this place has a HELL of a lot of spirit. When I entered the centre, I was immediately presented to Liz, the business development officer, who was not only very excited that we were there, but was very happy to help. She gave us a whole list of local places to get in touch with, and found us the perfect performance spot.

We set off posting flyers and putting up posters, while I popped in to the Universal Connections – another community centre in the town, and another place that we were welcomed with absolutely open arms. This was all going pretty well so far!

Calm before the storm.

The only real requisite for where we sleep is that there have to be toilets available through the night. And unfortunately, that meant it wasn’t possible for us to stay overnight in Douglas – small town, no public toilets. Or rather, there were public toilets, but they’d been closed down a few years ago. Not enough business.

We would be staying overnight in the near-by service station. That actually sounds much worse than it was – Cairn Lodge Services was one of those really nice service stations where they have like free showers and a ‘Farm Shop’. If you’re in Lanarkshire, take the detour. It’s very worth it.

We began cooking, with spirits a little bit dampened from the quietness of the town.

And then they got damper.

It started spitting. Not to worry, we’ve dealt with bad weather before. We could power through.

We set up the table and got ready to start eating dinner, and then the heavens completely opened. With no warning, it started pouring and pouring, and there wasn’t much we could do but sit there, eat our soggy dinner, and get soaked. We strung our gazebo up to some trees, and it made an acceptable shelter.

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A little sad, a little damp.

We couldn’t go inside, and everyone was feeling shit, and to be honest, it was all a little bit shit. The guys took our plates in to the service station to wash them up, and were summarily kicked out – fortunately, with a bucket of water to wash up in.

I’ll be honest, spirits haven’t yet been this low, and there wasn’t much that could be done. Except try to band together and pull through.

I’ve never met a more resilient group of people in my life.

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Laugh so you don’t cry…

There was a small – I don’t know what you’d call it, maybe a portcullis or something? A weird looking gate, just outside the service station, that provided some shelter. I went in to the service station and bought 6 beers, and despite the rain, and the potential lack of audience, despite the long journey behind us, and the week and a half ahead. Despite all of that, we somehow managed to laugh. At us, 6 students, sitting in a service station in some weird gateway, drinking and taking shelter from the rain.

What a ridiculous idea this was.

Oh THERE they are…

So it turns out that we didn’t need to be worried about there not being people at the show – we had a really supportive response from businesses and community groups in Douglas on social media, which helped to spread the word about us. We decided not to flyer in Douglas, and instead spent the day in the community centre, getting some work done and getting prepped for the fringe (WE ONLY HAVE 2 TICKETS TO THE OPENING NIGHT OF A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM LEFT WHOOP WHOOP GET YOUR TICKETS HERE. And if you really wanna show your love, grab your To The Ocean tickets too!).

After a very productive day, we went over to our performance site. And had to put in an incredibly difficult performance.

So we’d pitched our tent near a play park – when we were about to start, there were a lot of kids in the tent. Which is fine, we’ve performed for a lot of kids before. There were also a fair few families there. As the show began, the kids began to get more and more lively – running about, shouting, running across the stage and all that. Towards the end, it impossible to be heard over the racket – the kids were running about and screaming and causing a distraction. During the songs, they were dancing, and trying to sing. A few of the adults were doing the same.

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But at LEAST there was a play park…

We powered through, of course, but it was really, really hard. It’s always difficult to stand up and do a show, and it’s even harder when you feel like no-one is listening, or that no-one cares.

Initially, the rest of the team was pretty sad about it, and of course that made me angry. I don’t really mind making a twat of myself, but to see the heads of such strong people drop so drastically – it’s upsetting and it’s angering.

But the more we spoke about it, the more we began to take a bit of a different approach. When you think about it, the reaction that these kids had is kind of interesting – bearing in mind the size of Douglas, we agreed that most of these kids had probably never seen a show like this before. And so the reaction that they had – having fun, making a racket, and joining in – that was their instinctive reaction to seeing a piece of theatre.

And of course, underpinning all that was the central idea of this project – accessibility. The show may have been hard, but we’d just performed to the audience with the largest proportion of people who’d never been to the theatre that we’d ever had. That definitely counts for something. We could have told those kids to go away if they came to the show again, but instead, we approached the next day with a slightly different tack.

Setting things straight

  1. Arrive at the performance location. Pitch the tent, but leave the sides rolled down. That means that people won’t be able to run in and out of the tent, and gets rid of too much distraction. Not only is the running in and out disheartening for us, it’s also quite dangerous. If someone trips over the guy-ropes, they can injure themselves, and cause serious damage to the tent.
  2. When the kids arrive, keep an eye out for what they’re doing. If they’re back to the same thing as yesterday (running around the tent and jumping over the guy ropes), pull them aside and let them know (kindly) that that’s dangerous. They’re still welcome to come to the show, they just need to be a little bit careful.
  3. Warm up as usual, with a sense of excitement. You’re about to have an enraptured audience at the show.
  4. 5 minutes before the show time, round up the kids that are going to be coming to see the show. Let them know that you’re really excited to have them at the show tonight. Let them know that you found it a little bit difficult to perform with all the noise and the running around – let them know that they’re welcome to come and watch, if they try not to be too distracting.
  5. DEFINITELY ASK THE KIDS TO LEAVE THEIR JUICE OUTSIDE. Cos like. You know. I don’t want to be cleaning up juice for half an hour after the play.
  6. Just before the show starts, stand up, and let the entire audience know how excited you are about the show. Ask them to please keep noise to a minimum while the show is going on – and if they leave, they won’t be able to come back in.
  7. Leave a sentinel outside, just incase.

We performed to an audience of 30, of which 24 were children. There were some teething issues for the first five minutes, but by the time the show was under-way, they were completely enraptured. It was amazing to watch. Now that we’d actually taken the time to engage with these kids – we’d spoken to them like people and asked them to help us out when watching the show – they’d really enjoyed what we were doing. The looks on their faces throughout the show were only augmented by the kind words they had to say after the show.

It had been a tough couple of days, but with hard work and a caring attitude, we’d managed to turn it around. On an unrelated note, a separate family came to see the show this night. They had a young girl who seemed to be really enjoying herself. I went up to them after the show just to let them know that I didn’t mean to cause any offence with my announcement at the beginning. They said not to worry, and they they had a really lovely time.

The little girl ran out, looked at her parents, and looked at me. She touched her chin.

I looked a little confused.

“Oh, she’s signing,” said the mum. “She’s saying ‘thank you’.”

For some reason, that really touched me.

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We didn’t take a lot of photos in Douglas but HERE IS ONE OF US WALKING!

We’ve been learning so much on this whole project, and I’ll never forget Douglas for this really important reminder. I’ve always felt that it’s essential to approach other people (and life in general) with kindness. Douglas reminded me just how important that is – how a kind approach can often provide an easy solution to any issue that you’re confronted with.

We’re off on the road again, moving to our second last location, Balloch. It’s a really stunning town, and we’re hoping to perform for Rowan’s parents. Keep an eye peeled for Grace’s blog in a few days time!

 

So, what do you have to do to become a ‘Herring Queen’? I’m just asking for a friend …

Now, Eyemouth, we didn’t have the best introduction. I realise that wasn’t your fault, and I’m sorry I held it against you for our first day. To put this into context, we arrived at Eyemouth in the pouring rain, like it was literally tipping it down, and I had severe caffeine withdrawal symptoms. As anyone who knows me knows, and let’s face it even if you don’t know me, this is not a recipe for a happy Grace. So, when Oli stopped the van to go and look for our performance location, I jumped at the chance to go and explore the town, even though there was an actual storm concurrently occurring because I am not settled in a new location until I know there is a good coffee shop!

After a stroll along the harbour we found Obolo bar and bistro, our very own barn in the storm (that’s a ‘To The Ocean’ reference lads). The staff were super friendly, the drinks were reasonably priced, and the WiFi was really fast. Basically everything we look for in a coffee shop, oh and there were plugs for charging all our electrical devices. We hit the jackpot. Once Oli had secured where we were performing, he and the others who had stayed in the van came to join us. As the rain had cleared, we now had to set about letting the good people of Eyemouth know we had arrived. We split into pairs and went around posting flyers through letterboxes and putting our posters up in any shops that were still open.

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Safe to say it was a little bit grey when we arrived.

One thing that we had noted upon our arrival was the flags of all the ‘Herring Queens’ around Eyemouth. We continued to see these throughout our walk around the town, and those who have received the honour of the title of the ‘Herring Queen’ have plaques on their house denoting when they won this prestige. Obviously this phenomenon piqued our interest, how did one achieve this honour? What did this job entail? So, after dinner we did what any good millennial does when they don’t know the answer, we googled it. Google, however, let us down this time, even the Wikipedia page didn’t shed light on what a ‘Herring Queen’ is. We therefore had to be resign ourselves to the fact that we would never fully know the answer.

Even though this question still hung over us, we managed to get a good sleep, until we were rudely woken up by a rather loud lorry. Anyone would think we were sleeping in a working harbour … oh wait we were. The day was rather grey, but Ana and I adopted a positive spirit and went to the town centre to commence the first flyering shift. The weather, however, seemed to put a lot of people off a stroll along the promenade as it was kind of dead. We didn’t manage to hand out that many flyers at all. But those we did give flyers to, for the most part, seemed genuinely interested, which was a very positive sign! After our flyering shift Ana and I went back to the van to have our lunch. As we strolled along the harbour side we saw some worrying police tape near our van. We passed Adam on his way into town, and he told us that we had to go up the hill, past Gunsgreen House, and then down the hill, but we could still make it to the van. Ana and I were intrigued, and it’s safe to say we were not the only ones. It seemed like half of Eyemouth had come to see what was going on. The reason for the police presence is yet another elusive Eyemouth mystery that was never properly solved. All we know is that the lifeguards were involved. After the excitement of a possible crime scene, we went back to Oblo to get a coffee and some WiFi and were later joined by Oli and Rowan who were working on marketing for the Edinburgh Fringe. Our shows are on sale on line and they’re selling remarkably well, so head on over to get your tickets for ‘To The Ocean’ and ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ now!

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What a beautiful place to perform!

And then it was call time, and we headed back to the van to put the tent up outside the beautiful Gunsgreen House, where we had kindly been allowed to perform. Our beautiful Bell Tent Boutique tent didn’t look at all out of place in front of the stately house. It struck me how out-of-place, yet totally in the right place the almost stately home was in this little seaside town, and how it made so much sense for our tent to be pitched in front of it. The aim of this tour is to make theatre more accessible, so when we arrive in 16 out of the 17 locations (not including the Edinburgh Fringe, obviously) of our tour we don’t really fit. What is a travelling theatre company doing in Roundstone? Or Enniskillen? Or Bala? But all the towns and villages we have visited have had such a strong creative community, which may not be apparent upon first glance. So, when we pitch our tent in all these locations, even though we may look a bit strange with our hippy van and big bell tent, we’re finding ourselves amongst a lot of like-mined people. We are finding places where we fit.

With some new direction under our belt for the first scene, our performance of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ was a really good show. And then when it was time to make dinner, we were joined by some rather fitting guests, seals! Ana was particularly taken with them, she may even have shed a tear or two. Topic of conversation at the dinner table then shifted from talk about seals, to discussion of other animal-related things, until we were reminiscing on the great film that is Madagascar. Then, after what can only be described as the BEST Mort impression ever by the one and only Hanna Lawson, we decided to watch Madagascar together in the entrance hall of the harbour building. While team clean did the washing up, Ana, Oli, and I brought up all our tent cushions, snacks, and prosecco. It was like the best sleepover ever!

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Aren’t we the cutest dysfunctional family ever?!?!

The next morning did not pass in such a wholesome way, however, as I was mentally scared forever. I was back at the promenade, just innocently doing some flyering. I was mid- ‘Can I interest you in some free theatre?’ – when something wet landed in my ear. It took me a moment to process what had happened, and then it hit me, a seagull had just pooped in my ear! I went over to Rowan in a panicked state of disgust, and she took me to the public toilets to get myself cleaned up. You’ve got to give it to the bird that it managed to aim directly into my ear. There was next to no spillage, and there was no poo on my clothes. But it was just a very, very gross experience!

But the day was made better, by not only the reappearance of sunshine, but also a visit from our friend Caitlin Morris! It was so lovely to see her and her family, and to have some friendly faces in the crowd for our performance of ‘To The Ocean’. With Caitlin having already seen the original performance back in the harbour café last November, we were excited to show her how different it is now, with not only different cast members, but also in a completely different location! The Morris family, and the rest of the audience, seemed to really enjoy the show, which was great! So Rowan and Hanna decided that a celebratory ‘pizza crunch’ was in order. Adam, Ana, Oli, and I didn’t fancy a takeaway, so Oli and I went to the Co-op to get some ingredients for dinner. As we were walking through town we saw a sight that we knew would not please Hanna and Rowan, a closed fish and chip shop. We went back to warn them and the Morris family who were strolling through the town in blissful ignorance. I have not seen such a disappointed Rowan possibly ever before. They did, however, manage to console themselves with some treats from the Chinese instead.

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Look, our friend came to see our show!!

Monday morning came around and we were rudely awoken again by lorries and a very hot and slightly smelly van (I mean fair enough, we have been living in it for nearly two months now!) and at just after 10:30 it was time to leave Eyemouth and head to our next location, Douglas. I’m going to leave Oli to tell you about our time in Douglas. All I’ll say is that it was not what we were expecting …

 

 

What We’ve Been up to Lake-ly.

At least you know what you’re getting from me. Over-excited content and realfreakin dumb titles.

THAT’S RIGHT EVERYONE, for just 3 nights, we’ve been gracing England with our presence – two cheeky performances in Keswick, and a whole host of lovely and helpful people to get us on our way!

Home Sweet Home

When Grace left you last, we’d just spent the night at Annabel’s for a night of friends, fun, and REAL food. It was really quite lovely.

We woke up the next morning refreshed and ready to go, but also remembering what we were missing. It’s hard to go back to being in the van after such a warm welcome – especially after so long. Truth be told, the tiredness has started to creep in, which hasn’t been helped particularly by the spots of rain. The van is getting smellier, and we’re losing things more often.

And yet, for some unknow, unjustifiable and frankly insane reason, when night comes around, I’m still excited to sleep in it every night.

Go figure.

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What a great job our little Vanny is doing!

We said our goodbyes, and off we popped, straight up the East coast to Keswick in the Northern Lake District.

Organising everything with Keswick has been a little up and down – reasons to become clear later – but a shining light in the darkness has been an email that I received from a lovely lady named Jocelyn, asking if we’d be interesting in using her guest house during our time in Keswick. Unfortunately, it was a little bit out of our budget, but ever the cheeky man that I am, I asked her about using the showers in her house. She has three pre-teen boys and her own stuff going on, so it was a bit of a shot in the dark.

Something that is constantly amazing me about this tour is the seemingly unending kindness that we’re finding everywhere we go. She was more than happy to put us up while we were performing – we slept in the van, and popped in and out to make dinners and shower.

When we arrived, we received a particularly warm welcome from Jocelyn and her husband Graham, who moved their car off their driveway to give us space to park. We were also greeted by Nibbles, their rabbit, who was just, literally, the cutest thing ever to have graced god’s green earth.

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The view out of the van as I woke up every morning says it all really…

Honestly, we’ve got arriving in a new location down to a very fine art by now – within two hours, we’ve got posters up all over the town, and put flyers through most everyone’s letter box. You can’t NOT know we’re in town.

We made a quick dinner, and then, in an amusing turn of events, Grace and I went out to see a show in Keswick’s own Theatre by the Lake.

The theatre itself has received really positive reviews, and it’s clear to see why. The staff are friendly, and it’s picturesque location – just on the edge of Derwentwater – makes it very easy on the eye. This isn’t a space to review shows or theatres though, so I’ll be brief. Bold Girls by Rona Munro tells the story of three women in Belfast during The Troubles – what business a theatre in Cumbria has producing such a piece, I am not sure. Despite that though, we had a really lovely evening – it’s nice to go and see a show when the opportunity presents itself, and I mean…we both like…quite enjoy theatre.

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Theatre by the la-ake (read to tune of Cake by the Ocean)

We strolled through the streets of Keswick as the sun was setting, and made it back to the house satisfied and, surprisingly for both of us, not hating the idea of sleeping in the van.

What good kids

So Jocelyn, the lady that we were staying with, is the head of a drama group at the school in Keswick. They’d just done a production of the Tempest, and, in celebration, they were holding an after-party at Jocelyn’s house, followed by a trip to see our show.

You have NO IDEA how nice it is to like ACTUALLY KNOW that there will be people at the show. Like KNOW. IN ADVANCE.

The day itself went off without a hitch. Flyering, followed by a short drive over to the park, where we would be performing. Easy stuff, and another very busy show.

Most of the audience was aged 8 to 13, and personally I really love performing A Midsummer Night’s Dream to kids of that age. I think that they watch it with a whole different mindset to how most of our audiences watch it, laughing at bits that we didn’t realise were funny. On top of that, I get to do a lot of audience interaction when I’m playing Puck, and I think kids of that age appreciate that the most – plus, they give me a very different energy to bounce off.

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Look at our beautiful Bell Tent Boutique just hiding there!

The show was a raucous success – I think it might have been one of our best ones yet – so we weren’t quite ready to settle down yet. The Golden Lion was holding a pub-quiz in aid of Stroke Relief, so we sauntered along, feeling like we deserved a nice, cold pint.

Now let me be honest with you here. We weren’t expecting anything from this pub quiz. Maybe a bit of fun. A cute evening out, a few laughs, some beer, and then back to the van for another strangely magical night’s sleep. I arrived late because I had to move the van back to the house, and I saw that we had some roguely convincing answers. Fine, whatever, still no expectations.

We won.

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And we made a friend!

Well I say we won. Adam won and we watched. The man is a Pub Quiz MACHINE. Honestly. Wanna know who won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 1984. Ask Adam. Unsure who the 26th President of the United states is? Adam’s your man. Seriously it’s CRAZY impressive…

Feeling even prouder, and carrying the lovely looking bottle of Rioja we had won in our hands, we made our way back to the van again.

Market Day

Thursday is Market Day in Keswick. It was a tough one to flyer because most people were just passing through, and of course that meant that it was going to be difficult for us to wrangle up an audience.

Personally, I LOVE a good market, and this one was absolutely everything you could wish for. From fresh produce to off-brand fake-leather bags, crappy children’s toys to fish caught that morning – Keswick already felt pretty alive, but this was something else. It’s exciting to see a town like this.

Another day sped past with us handing out flyers, and then we met up before the show to have a quick marketing chat. The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is fast approaching, and we wanted to think of fun ways to get engage with as many people as possible during the world’s largest fringe. Speaking of which, if you’re going to be around in Edinburgh this August, and fancy coming to see some really fun and lovely shows, we’re performing from the 9th to the 19th. Tickets to A Midsummer Night’s Dream (18:45) are available here, and To The Ocean (15:20) are here.

This was another kid-friendly show, but this time there were a few kids who didn’t come with their parents. We love performing for absolutely anyone and everyone that comes along. But what made this particularly special – at the end, we usually ask for donations towards the cost of the project, and leave a hat by the door. When we went to see what we had collected, the kids had left a handful of their sweets besides some of the money.

Adorable.

That night, we said our goodbyes to Graham and Jocelyn – they are truly lovely, and I would honestly, truly say that if you’re passing through Keswick and looking for a place to stay, look no further than their guest house. You’ll feel welcome from the moment you arrive.

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So the sun sets on Keswick (I regret nothing)

And that was that, Keswick over – after a long day of driving (and our first stop at an Aldi in WAAAY too long), we’ve just arrived in Eyemouth, which means that we’re back in Scotland now and in to the final leg of the journey. 11 more days, 8 more shows, 4 more locations – check out Grace’s blog in a few days to see what the future holds.

Spoilers, it includes an adorable little seaside town, and more seals than you can shake your fist at.

 

 

 

The time when we met everyone’s family

Okay, so maybe we didn’t meet everyone’s family. But, as you’ll know if you’ve read Oli’s previous blog post, Bala was all set to be a weekend of fun, family, and festivities (it was a special someone’s birthday after all). And it certainly did not disappoint!

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Look at what a beautiful view we had to wake up to!

Happy birthday to Oli!

Although Saturday may have been a very special day, that didn’t mean there wasn’t still work to be done. I was on the first flyering shift at 12 with the birthday boy. So, at just after 11:30 we wondered into town to get him his desired birthday breakfast, croissants. We walked into the Co-Op, went over to their bakery section, and were met with extreme disappointment as there were no croissants left! A disaster I’m sure you can agree, one must have what they want for breakfast on their birthday!! This meant we were now on a mission to find Oli a croissant, we searched high and low, and eventually the Spar came to our rescue and Oli was able to snag their last croissant and pain-au-chocolat.

Once the birthday boy had been fed, we set about flyering the town. There was so many lovely people, and we had a really positive reaction from the people of Bala. One of the highlights of the day, however, was when Oli caught a glimpse of his parents who had come up to Bala to surprise him. It was like watching a child who just got exactly what they wanted for Christmas, as he skip-jumped across the road (the green man was flashing on the traffic lights don’t worry. We take road safety very seriously here at BoxedIn).

Literally so many family members

So, it turns out that Bala was the most convenient location for not only Oli’s parents, but Adam and Hanna’s too. We all met Adam’s parents on Friday night when they came down to look at the van their son had been living in for the past month and a half. We also met Lucy, the CUTEST dog ever. She will probably hold the title of my favourite audience member ever for a very long time!

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She’s just sooooo cute!!

Saturday was the day to meet the Lawsons and the Savages. I nearly flyered this jolly family who were walking down the street towards me, until I saw that one of them was Hanna and expertly deduced this meant they were probably her family. Now, the Lawson’s do not do things by halves, if anyone was coming to support Hanna that meant they were ALL coming to see her. I met her parents, Grandparents, and her Grandparents’ friends, all of whom are truly wonderful people!

Later that afternoon Rowan and I went back to the van to have our lunch and stumbled across the Savages having a family birthday lunch by the lake. Carol and Ken were also so kind and easy to talk to, and it was really special to be surrounded by such a warm family atmosphere.

And it blew up like a circus tent!

That afternoon, we set about putting up our Bell Tent Boutique tent in our new performance location by the Penllyn leisure centre. There was a strong breeze coming off the lake, and as soon as we opened the entrance of the tent to put it up the tent filled up with air. It stood taller than it had ever stood before, and from the inside it looked almost like a big top. We managed to battle the breeze and put the tent up, and that evening there was a lovely atmosphere as the tent was filled with family, friends, and residents of Bala.

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How pretty is our tent??

Party time!

After the show, Carol and Ken kindly took us all out for dinner at Plas Yn Dre to celebrate Oli’s birthday. As we all sat around the dinner table enjoying a delicious meal, Ana and I reflected on what a special experience we are currently a part of. All the people around the table had experienced the joy from our performance of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, and the tour had impacted all our lives in some way. Even though not all our families were there, the camaraderie around the table made us feel like we had created our own little family that weekend in Bala. It was a truly wonderful evening.

Once we had lined our stomachs with some good food and the parents had left us, we hit the town! Now Bala has a great selection of drinking establishments, and at night it even has some of my favourite places, pub-clubs! For those of you how have not experienced a pub club before, you are missing out. We lit up the dance floor with our moves and enthusiasm (which may or may not have been ignited by a couple of tequila shots), and we partied the night away.

The day after the night before

The next day we all woke up a little worse for wear, some worse than others (I’m sorry I was grumpy Adam!). Adam and Oli went for breakfast with their parents before they had to make their ways back home. And Hanna and her family left to have lunch with a family friend.

After family time, we set about flyering the town again. Although it was a bit quieter because it was a Sunday, we were still greeted with lots of enthusiasm. And that evening, even though the Lawsons were the only parents still standing, we had another fab audience!

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Photo creds to the Lawsons for capturing this special action shot. 

Road trip to England?!?!

The next morning, we woke up to RAIN! It was a definite shock to the system, and a reminder of how lucky we’ve been with the weather so far. We all got ready for the day, hopped in the van, went to Co-Op for some breakfast, and then set off on a road trip to England. It may be home to half of our team, but we were yet to go to England. As it is a pretty long drive from Bala to Keswick, we had scheduled a stop in Manchester. I had never been, but I’d heard great things, so I was VERY excited, and I was NOT disappointed! Once we arrived in Manchester, Hanna, Oli, and Rowan went to the bank to sort out important financial things, Ana met up with a friend, Adam found a coffee shop to charge all his electrical appliances, and I went to Boots because as much as I love local pharmacies they do not stock everything, and when you live in a van having all the necessary toiletries is a must. I then met up with Hanna and we went to a vintage shop/vegan café called Teatime Collective. Now, you don’t have to be vegan to appreciate this place, if you have taste buds you will have a good time, 10 out of 10 recommend. Hanna and I then browsed the shops vowing not to spend any money. A shout out to Thunder Egg who managed to make us break this promise we made to ourselves, because we needed those clothes.

After our whistle stop visit to the city, we set off to the Steele’s house, as they had very kindly agreed to host us that evening. We arrived in the pouring rain which could have put a dampener on things, but we were very warmly welcomed into their beautiful family home. I had forgotten how nice it was to be in a building where you could walk up the stairs. This may sound weird, but when you’ve been living in a van for nearly two months, it’s the little things that bring you joy!

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Thank you to the Steeles for such a lovely evening!

Annabel had also invited some of our friends from St Andrews, Ellie Burke and Henry Roberts round so we could have a mini summer reunion. Nicky and Tom were the hosts with the most providing us with multiple snacks, copious amounts of alcohol, and delicious barbeque on one of the only days this summer that has not been barbeque weather. By the time we all went to bed we were very full, very content, and very excited to get a good night’s sleep!

The next morning came around far too quickly. And once we had emptied the Steele’s hot water tank as we do very much enjoy having access to an actual, proper shower, we headed off on our way to our next destination Keswick. I’ll leave it to Oli to tell you all about our adventures here. Spoilers, we have found some more incredibly kind and wonderful people who are willing to support this crazy adventure!

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Wales of a Time

Sometimes these blog titles just write themselves.

As you all well know since Grace left you in her last blog, we’ve travelled across St David’s channel on a perilous journey from the Emerald Isle and across to Wales. After a lovely day racing along the South Coast of Ireland, we got the late ferry from Rosslare to Fishguard, and arrived in St David’s late in the evening. To our campsite.

Now we’ve stayed in some interesting campsites, but this one was…well…okay, so it was essentially just a field. Also no showers. Or, okay, here were showers, but they were open, and cold, and outdoors. And a forty minute walk in to town.

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But still…you know…stunningly beautiful

That’s an issue because, in case you don’t remember, our lovely Vanny Devito has been feeling a little poorly recently, so we were planning to sleep in tents for a few nights while she went to the doctor. So we had to be walking there and back – it was a whole thing.

Get well soon

When your entire project is based around your vehicle, it’s pretty nerve-wracking to face the possibility that the vehicle might not be working any more. Cos like…you know…no van means no tour.

We woke up early and headed over to the Bishop’s Palace – our performance location for the next few days – to drop off everything that we’d be needing. And then I took Vanny up the mechanic’s. St David’s Garage in St David’s.

He gave me the low down – if the steering pump was gone, and we’d been driving the van for upwards of 300 miles before getting her to a mechanic, there was every possibility that they would need to replace the steering rack too. Long story short, the whole repair could be costing us over a grand. But hey, he said, sometimes people get lucky.

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She was looking a little poorly 😦

I left the mechanic praying that we’d be one of those people – they said to call back at 3pm and they’d let me know what the plan was.

The next few hours were spent floating around the town. I’m not someone who’s particularly scared of failure, but staring failure dead in the face is really quite an unpleasant prospect. There were lots of thoughts going through my head, but most of all, the thought that maybe we had bitten off a bit more than we could chew with this project. Cos I mean, let’s be real. It’s a bit silly if you think about it.

I’m not necessarily saying that we had some divine intervention, but the guy running the garage. St David’s Garage. His name was David.

It turns out that someone had done a bit of a bad job rooting the hydraulics through the steering pumps at some point in the last few years. So a pipe had burst. So he fixed it.

Good news, the van works. Bad news, he said it’s really a temporary fix, and we’ll need to get it looked again after tour. In the grand scheme of things, this news seemed pretty fucking good to me.

If you are ever in South-West Wales, and you are having an issue with your car. Just trust me, go to St David’s Garage.

And while I’m on the subject of recommendations…after I collected the van, we went over to our campsite and collected up all our stuff. Because we were moving to the Bishop’s Palace – a medieval ruin, and our performance location. Amanda, the custodian of the site, had been amazingly helpful, and this was probably the easiest site for us to interact with on this project. We explained the situation with the van to her earlier in the day, and she said that if it gets fixed up, we’d be more than welcome to park in the back of the palace and stay there.

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This is where we lived for like 3 days…

We had a barbeque in the field behind the palace, and watched the sunset while bats shot across the skyline .

Football Crazy

I don’t know if you heard, but there was a pretty big football game on last Wednesday. Which was Catastrophic for two reasons really. One because England lost (oh no boo hoo bad at the kick-ball tragedy strikes) but 2 – and more importantly – because we had a show on that no-one seemed interested in. We spent the whole day flyering, largely to responses of ‘oh I’m sorry, I’m going to be watching the football.’

It was fine, you know, whatever, I don’t mind. Just a little disheartening. But overall fine.

We arrive for our performance expecting no audience at all, and begin our warm-up. For the first time in a long time, we actually had the time, as well as permanency of location, to do some work with our performance space – we played some games to get used to the space that we were in, and spoke about how living and performing in this ruined medieval monument might augment our performance.

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Mixtape dropping autumn this year.

AND BOY WERE WE PLEASANTLY SURPRISED.

This was our biggest audience so far, with about 39 people in attendance. That might not seem like much, but it’s incredibly exciting for us – and we were able to accommodate them all comfortably, thanks to our beautiful bell tent from The Bell Tent Boutique! The difference, I think, was that the Bishop’s Palace have been so helpful in sorting out our publicity – they have had our posters on display for weeks, and they’ve been really helping to publicise the show. That meant that word about the project reached the town ages ago, so people could plan accordingly.

Of course, there’s also the fact that St David’s is a stunningly creative town. There is a gallery around every corner, and although it is quite set up for tourists, it still retains that local charm.

I would happily say that this was the best show we’ve done so far.

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SO many people!

Only one other major thing happened that day – we went shopping and OH MY GOD it’s so nice to be back. Ireland was amazing but the food is so freaking expensive. 59p for a packet of cookies? Now that’s much more like it.

The masses descend

A day like any other really – we showered up at the tourist information centre (did I mention that already? We were showering at the tourist information centre. They were very helpful and lovely – drop in if you’re in St David’s). And then we started our day of flyering. Of course, we didn’t have the football to contend with today, so it was a slightly more pleasant experience.

So yep, just trotting along, doing our thing, being us, the usual and then EVERYONE FROM ST DAVID’S CAME TO OUR SHOW.

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Down to our stellar flyering, of course.

The tent was practically bursting at the seems when the show kicked off, and more people kept trickling in as the show progressed. It was hard work to keep everyone engaged, but I think we overall managed it, and when Amanda came to give us the report at the end of the day, she told us that we had an audience of 93. That’s more than double our expected capacity.

Everything about this project is rewarding, but seeing so many people interested in what we’re doing. That’s especially so.

We made dinner and took a small excursion to the pub, deservedly proud of everything that we had done to get to where we were.

Since then, we woke up and headed to our next location – Bala – via a quick stop in Aberystwyth. We’ve had some minor venue nightmares (there’s always a foil to something as pleasant as St David’s) but we’re feeling overall very positive about it here. We’ve got some family members up to see us, and we think it’s going to be a really fab show.

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Our view last night.

Also it’s my birthday today. We’ll keep you updated on how that goes (spoilers, pints are £1.99 in this town, so expect it to get a little rowdy).

Saying goodbye to the Emerald Isle

When Oli left you, we had arrived in our final Irish destination, Crosshaven. Now, I’ve made no secret about how much I love Ireland. I think my most overused phrases this past month have been, ‘this place is my favourite’, and ’10 out of 10 coming back here’.  So, as you can imagine, the prospect of performing in Ireland for the last time was not something I was looking forward to. I was, however, very much looking forward to visiting Crosshaven because, well, it was another Irish destination and the Emerald Isle hadn’t let me down so far, and Crosshaven certainly did not disappoint!

We arrived at the GAA (Gaelic Athletics Association) our original performance venue. And whilst it was a lovely location, it was a bit too far out of town, there were no permanently accessible bathrooms, and we couldn’t actually find any members of staff to talk to. This presented a slight problem. We needed a performance venue, we needed to publicise our show, we needed access to showers, and we needed food, like fast. It was gone 1 and we are a hungry group of travellers. So, we headed on into the town.

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The beautiful view from the GAA

Of course, our first port of call was the local supermarket to buy our lunch. As I’ve stressed before, this tour is not cheap, and we are all students, so saving money is of vital importance. My standard go-to lunch is a good bit of bread and hummus and an apple, nutritious, delicious, and inexpensive. Rowan managed to out-do all our finds though, and got herself a whole tomato, pesto, and olive focaccia for only €2!! It’s safe to say we were all a bit jealous of her steal. Although, it must be noted that it did somewhat defeat her, apparently it got very oily towards the end!

After we’d had our lunch it was time to get to work. Our new performance venue next to the Rivers End Café was secured, and we all set about writing our updated location on our flyers while Oli went in search of some showers for us. Han played us all her ‘Vannn’ playlist (spoilers it’s full of bangers!!) while we wrote in the sunshine. All in all it was pretty idyllic. Then Oli made our day even better by telling us that he had found us showers! We must thank the Royal Cork Yacht Club for letting a smelly touring theatre company use their lovely showers for three days. It was an absolute treat!

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Ana, Hanna, and Rowan all went for a yummy breakfast at the Rivers End Cafe before their flyering shifts. 

Once all our problems had been solved it was time to get on with publicising our shows. We split into teams of two as usual. Adam and Ana canvassing the shops, Hanna and Rowan taking the left side of the town, while Oli and I took the right. Posting flyers through letterboxes is usually a harmless task, however, after just moments earlier telling Oli that I had never been attacked by a dog while flyering I faced THREE near death experiences. Fun fact for you all, running away from dogs after walking up the mountainous drive ways that EVERY HOUSE in Crosshaven seemed to have was NOT easy! But hey, at least it helped keep me fit I guess!

At the end of all our flyering shifts we all met up again. Adam and Ana had done an exceptionally good job and had found Dennis and Jolene at Cronins Bar, who have earned Catherine-level status as being absolutely amazing! They posted about our shows on their Facebook page, let us use their toilets, and even offered us free dinner! Which we took, I mean come on its free food, also it looked AMAZING!! After a lovely dinner, a couple of drinks and a few games of cards, we all went to bed satisfied and looking forward for the next day in Crosshaven.

 

The next morning was our first experience of the marina showers. Now, after a week of campsite showers you cannot understand how excited we were to wash our hair in a proper shower, where you can control the water temperature and how long the shower runs for. We were not disappointed, it was bliss. Freshly showered and smelling and looking beautiful we set about the day’s task of flyering to drum up interest for our show. In a slight change to our usual schedule, the three flyering shifts were intersected with a tent putting up session, because Adam had to watch the England vs Sweden match. Now, we’ve been putting this tent up now for over a month, so we were not prepared for something to stall this well-oiled machine. We’ve experienced many different types of weather on our travels, rain, wind, extreme heat, but what we have not had to encounter so far is a sea breeze. And let me tell you, these are deceptively tricky beasts. We had to fully attempt to put up the tent TWICE because the first time the breeze nearly blew the tent away. This meant that Adam missed the beginning of the match (sorry pal!), but our beautiful Bell Tent Boutique Tent was up, and giving us lots of free publicity by being a great spectacle of interest.

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Isn’t she pretty! 

The community of Crosshaven had been brilliant in spreading the word about our show, and this meant that we had our biggest audience for ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, and certainly the highest number of children we’d ever had in the crowd. As our shows were created to be fun for the whole family, it was really interesting and informative to see how the children responded to our show. Shakespeare can be difficult to understand even as an adult, but we really think the addition of original music helped to keep the children engaged in what can be a tricky piece of theatre! After the show we were presented with the offer of yet another free dinner from Cronins, which we did not dare turn down. We sat outside the pub to enjoy our food, and after we had finished the Crosshaven Ukuleladies began to play. The atmosphere was magical as everyone gathered around to sing together against the backdrop of the setting sun.

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Look at the Ukeladies being fab!! 

The next day started off very much like the last. I LOVE HAVING ACCESS TO A SHOWER!!! and, having learnt from our previous mistakes, the tent was set up at a much faster speed. We then welcomed our biggest audience to date for ‘To The Ocean’, and after we had packed everything away, were gifted with the generosity of the Cronins staff and another free dinner. After dinner we bought ice creams to celebrate our final night in Ireland, and then went into the pub to play a good game of ‘Who is most likely to …’ I shall not give away any secrets that were divulged during this game because, what goes on tour, stays on tour. But let’s just say there was a lot of laughter.

This morning we got up bright and early and left Crosshaven. After a brief stop in Waterford to buy another tent (I’ll let Oli explain this one), and some lunch, we set off to Rosslare to catch the ferry over to Wales. I am currently sat on the ferry as I write, and I cannot wait to get to St David’s!! I went with my family when I was younger, and it only holds good memories for me. So I am so, so excited to go back! But I’ll leave it to Oli to tell you all about that part of our crazy adventure!

On the road again.

We’re back at it again – after we each went our separate ways last week for a much deserved rest, we assembled in Cork Airport on Monday, fresh as daisies and ready to start up again.

Hanna arrived back with us on Tuesday morning, after a lovely time in Texas, and with that, we headed off to our next location, Clonakilty.

Just a heads up, this one is quite van-heavy.

Steering us in the right direction

Clonakilty is a lovely town. Really beautiful, welcoming, friendly.

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See look, so pretty.

My experience of it, however, was a little bit mixed. Please excuse the lack of photos as a result.

We arrived at our planned performance venue (the Clonakilty Agricultural Showgrounds), and after a little bit of confusion, decided that we should head in to town to see if there was anywhere else that we might be able to perform. Not too much of an issue.

Then, the valve on one of the tyres broke. It started leaking. Fast.

I hopped in the van to take it to a tyre shop. Worst-case we’d need to buy a new tyre.

As I got in the van, the arm on my glasses broke.

I drove to the mechanics with the glasses half hanging off my face – going about 10km an hour down what was probably the largest road in Clonakilty is not a particularly good way to endear yourself to the locals.

I dropped the van at the mechanics, and they fixed the whole while I went to a shop and bought some superglue.

Tyre fixed, glasses fixed, sorted.

At that point, I realised that there was a wet patch underneath the van – directly beneath the bonnet. You see, the steering on the van had been a little stiff for the last few days – I thought it was just because we needed more steering fluid, so I topped it up before we left Cork.

But nope. It was leaking.

Great.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t something that could be fixed that day, so I parked up the van and headed in to town to join up with the rest of the team and do some flyering/try to work out where we were going to perform.

Sitting in the square in town, we were at a bit of a loss – green spaces weren’t immediately presenting themselves to us, and the town seemed quite built up.

“Should we go ask in there?” Hanna pointed to a doorway that had the words Clonakilty Community Arts Centre printed about it. That was how we met Sam and Thaddeus – Clonakilty, as it turns out, has an incredibly active and fairly large community arts group. Over the next few days, they were so incredibly helpful both in helping us find our performance space and in helping us pull together an audience for our shows.

Thaddeus took us on a little tour around the town, pointing out all the green spaces that we might be able to use – but in the end, we settled on our original space, after we ironed out the kinks.

We drove up to Desert House camp-site where we stayed for our time in Clonakilty, and had our first camp-stove dinner in a long time. Would you believe me when I say I missed it?

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Sometimes living in a van is quite nice really.

Getting fixed up

We spent the next day running from mechanic to mechanic trying to work out what was wrong with the van – the long and short of it was:

  1. The steering pump (the thing that pressurises the fluid for power-assisted steering) was looking very worse for wear. It’s not completely dead, but it needs replaced in the next 500 miles or so.
  2. Every mechanic in Ireland was busy at the moment.

Especially because we needed to catch our ferry to Wales on the 9th, this was a bit of an issue – every mechanic that I called was totally fully-booked. I think down to the amazingly hot weather that Ireland’s been having at the moment.

After some advice from our breakdown-cover providers about how soon we needed to repair the van, we called a mechanic in St David’s, our first stop in Wales, who said that he should be able to get it sorted while we’re there.

So for now, the problem was solved, and we headed back to the performance site to get ready for the show.

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What a pretty tent we have!

Despite a week long break, it went off without a hitch – I think that was in part because we had a fairly large audience that was also super vocal and responsive.

Clean me up, Scotty

So I’m not going to lie to you, living in a van for a month and a bit has it draw backs – probably the largest of which is the lack of a washing machine. I’ve been recycling clothes for weeks now. Everything smells. Send help.

Anyway, Hanna and I decided that enough was enough. We packed up all our gross, smelly, mouldy laundry, and found a fantastic laundrette/biohazard clinic in town that would wash and dry them all before we left the next morning.

I was uncertain that anyone would be able to clean these clothes – I don’t know what she did to them, but I now smell like a daffodil at all times. Which makes a nice change to however I smelt before.

We dropped our laundry off, and then found a café so that we could order…wait for it…OUR MERCHANDISE. Photos will be available when they arrive, but it’s basically a white baseball shirt with blue sleeves and the tour logo on the front. We’re actually going to have a few spare, so if anyone is interested in buying one, please hit us up!

We got to flyering, and then met up at the showgrounds again for our last performance in Clonakilty – we had a special visit from a kid named Lyle, who brought his family to see the show for his birthday. Of course, that was heart-warming, and it gave us the boost that we really needed to put on another fantastic show.

There was an open-mic night in town, and we had planned to go, but by the time we got back to the camp-site, I think we were all pretty tired. It was time for bed.

And that was it – our time in Clonakilty was done. Overall, a beautiful and friendly town.

Oh also, I almost forgot, totally over-run with roadworks at the moment. Like we were frequently in traffic that was at a total stand-still. But they’ll be finished by the end of the summer I believe, and I imagine the town will be even nicer when they’re done.

Yesterday, we drove out to our next and final location in Ireland – Crosshaven. I’ll let Grace tell you all about that next time. Spoilers, it’s pretty beautiful too.

Our largest audience so far!

Now this blog post is coming to you a bit late, because it was my 21stlast week and that’s the only excuse I have. But also, this is a cleverly-timed marketing ploy because we go back on tour TOMORROW after a well-deserved week off. So, this little reminiscence is a chance for you to GET HYPED for our last couple of shows in Ireland!

When Oli left you, we were waving goodbye to Killorglin, Puck, Catherine, and our biggest audience to date on a high. And it’s safe to say that this high was not burst at any point over the next couple of days!

After our Killorglin performances, it was time for us to have another day off to explore the beauty of Ireland! We started our day in Killarney, a lovely town which can claim to have possibly the world’s best value ice cream. I mean €1 for a ‘small’, which was quite possibly the biggest Mr Whippy I’ve ever seen in my life. Ice cream envy, and the fact that it was perfect weather for a Whippy almost made a girl wish she wasn’t vegan. I said ALMOST before anyone gets angry!!

Once the monster ice creams had been demolished it was time to head to Killarney House, and some of the MOST BEAUTIFUL gardens I had ever seen, ever. As Ana, Hanna, and I sat in the sunshine we got a call from Oli saying there was a free photography exhibition in the House. He did not need to tell us twice, not only was it free (a very important factor when you’re a broke student on an international theatre tour), but it was also photography which is objectively great!! We went into the house and saw some of the most breathtakingly stunning photos by Norman McCloskey. McCloskey had collated an exhibition of photos he’d taken around the Killorglin National Park that you just have to see to understand how amazing they were. He managed to create something that was both completely natural but also had an ethereal quality to it. I mean, that’s the beauty of nature.

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Look how pretty it is!!

While I was walking round the exhibition for the five-hundredth time (safe to say I’m a fan), a man who worked at the house came and asked us if we were going on the tour of the house. Due to some error in communication between Oli and Rowan, Adam, Rowan, and I ended up on the tour. As we walked through the large, white, ornate door to embark on our tour, we all shared a look that let each other know we were not 100% sure what was going on. The rooms were beautiful, our tour guide was very well informed, and we learnt a lot about the house (not that I could tell you any of it now, it’s been a while), but all in all it was a bit of a bizarre experience. We felt like three school children who had accidentally gone into a class they weren’t supposed to be in. Once the house tour was over, we made our way back out into the gardens where Ana, Hanna, and Oli were waiting for us. When the joking about how we ended up on the house tour was over, we headed onto our next tourist destination, Muckross Abbey.

We all spilled out of the van into the car park and were greeted by a very strong smell of horse manure. As we made our way towards the Abbey, the origins of this smell soon became clear, as horse and cart rides were being offered to the Abbey and through the surrounding countryside. Obviously, we were too poor to be able to go on one, but they really added to the charm of the place, giving the whole experience a nice Jane Austen vibe.

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Getting our Northanger Abbey vibes on

Carrying on along the Austen theme our next adventure was to Muckross House, or as we like to call it, all of ours’ dream home. When we arrived, we had our lunch on the grass alfresco style and then started to walk over to the house, passing the sign to a sweet shop we all made a mental note to stop there on the way back to the van. The gardens of the house were stunning, and because it was such a lovely day we decided to go and explore them first before entering the house. We ‘found’ a little beach next to the lake at the bottom of the garden, with a view that I can only describe as breath taking, I mean look at it!! Oli taught Ana and Hanna to skim stones so that we actually knew what we were doing in ‘To The Ocean’, while Adam, Rowan, and I sat on the rocks, watching and soaking up the rays. After the most idyllic half an hour I think we’ve had on tour so far, we made our way to the house. But after finding out that you had to pay to go in, we decided to explore the gardens a little bit more. In case it hasn’t been clear so far, we’re doing our days out on the CHEAP, we decided to explore the gardens a little bit more. The sun was out, and we made the most of it!

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Almost too stunning to be real

Once we’d done enough sunbathing in the gardens it was time to hit the road again. We, however, faced the biggest disappointment of the day on the way back to the van, finding out that the sign we’d seen advertising a ‘sweet shop’ was a piece of massive false-advertising. Entering the building we expected to find a shop full of jars, old-fashioned sweets, and that sugary sweet smell. Instead, we walked into a gift shop that sold about four chocolate bars. Now that might be a slight exaggeration, but what is not an exaggeration is how disappointed we all were! So, slightly disgruntled, we loaded ourselves back into the van and made our way to our next performance location, Kenmare.

After scouting which location was to be our performance site (we settled on the patch of grass at the end of a car park opposite the church), and buying food for our barbeque that evening, we headed off to our campsite just outside of Kenmare. At just £30 a night for us all we were not expecting 5* accommodation, however, that was exactly what we got at Dromquinna Manor! The toilets and showers were eccentrically called ‘his/her stables’ as they were converted stable blocks, they had showers that ran for longer than 4 minutes AND you didn’t have to pay for them, there were plugs to charge our phones ect, and the toilets were so clean, like so clean. (It’s safe to say I appreciated these facilities a lot!!) The campsite also had a ‘games room’ for campers to use, where we could all do some work, and charge our electrical devices. Another huge plus for (insert name here) is that it provided campsite-wide WiFi, and as the first leg of tour drew to an end we were definitely running low on data.

The next day we set off a little earlier than usual to commence flyering as we had had a full day off the day before. We divided into teams of two and were assigned two flyering shifts each. Rowan and I canvassed the town for an hour and a half, before we started visiting houses, posting our flyers through doors and talking to residents about the shows that would be happening that evening and on Sunday. After a three-hour flyering shift we were very much looking forward to lunch and stumbled across quite possibly the perfect café for a couple of English lit students of the vegetarian and vegan persuasion, the ‘Bookstop Cafe’, a charming vegetarian cafe and bookshop. The staff were lovely and welcoming, and the food was absolutely delicious! If you’re ever in Kenmare, this is definitely a place to visit!

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The Bookstop cafe even does vegan carrot cake!!

 

It was then time to start getting ready for the evening’s show. The weather was lovely for sitting in the shady garden of the café, but not so lovely for putting up a tent. We did come up with the genius plan of taking the bottom of the tent out though, so that the audience didn’t overheat. The brilliance of a Bell Tent Boutique tent is that it’s so easy to put together, so it is therefore super easy to take apart. We can change our performance space and adapt it to any climate without worrying that we’re going to be spending another hour trying to work out how we’re going to put it all back together again! Kenmare provided us with our biggest audiences for both shows to date. It was amazing to perform to so many people, and we would like to thank everyone for coming and for your generous donations after the show!

After our last performance of ‘To The Ocean’ on Sunday night, we packed up the van, got ourselves a quick take-away for dinner, and started our journey to Cork. After a long drive in the dark, we finally made it to Cork and found the motorhome car park that we were sleeping in that night. We set our alarms for a 4:30 start and prepared for a solid 4 hours of sleep! It’s safe to say 4:30 arrived far too quickly, Hanna was full of beans excited for her week in Texas, while the rest of us rubbed sleepy dust from our eyes and struggled to wake up. The drive to Cork airport took half an hour (creds to Oli for driving that early, I could barely keep my eyes open!), and then Han and I were dropped off outside the airport. We all said our goodbyes as we prepared for a well-deserved week off!

Now that week off has come to an end. Just thinking back over everything that has happened over the past month, I can’t wait to see what we get up to in the month to come. Watch out Ireland, Wales, England, and Scotland, we’re coming for you!