So, here’s the thing: I am a 42 year old woman living in the middle of the country. I am the Mother of one small child, and the wife of one short-ish man. I work full time in a secondary school, live in a three-bedroomed semi in a former mining area, have a couple of parents, a sister, a dog and I like the cinema, reading, and showing off.
Honestly? You couldn’t get more pedestrian than me!
And I am going to be playing one of Shakespeare’s most iconic roles in one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, in Stratford Upon Avon, with the RSC. The actual Royal Shakespeare Company. And with a professional cast, directing team, design team, crew…you know – with the pros.
Am I dreaming?
I will be! I’ll be Midsummer Night’s Dreaming.
I’ve been writing a blog on behalf of the Lovelace Theatre Group, documenting our exciting journey in the #Dream2016 project, and if you would like to have a read of that, you can find it here:
This blog, however, is on my personal page, because it’s less about the reporting and more about the feeling. There are 6 of us from Lovelace Theatre, cast in the East Midlands leg of the Midsummer Night’s Dream tour, and we have been cast as a team, in 6 different roles. All from different walks of life, and all with a part to play; both within the project and in real life.
We were told that we had been given the parts back in early June – so I’ve known for more than four months that in May next year, I will be performing the part of Nick Bottom in the RSC’s touring production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, on the stage at the Nottingham Theatre Royal, and then again in July at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford. I’ve known for four months, but each and every day I still catch my breath as I remember all over again. Because this IS a dream come true. This is something that goes beyond dreaming. A year ago I would NEVER have even considered that there would be a remote possibility of me… remember me? The 42 year old Mum?… me actually performing in an RSC production. And as such a major part.
I even got to be on an RSC video trailer!
I try not to bore my friends on Facebook. I mean, they’re all thrilled for me, of course. But even the people who love me the most can only take so much of “tickets are on sale now if you want to come and watch me” status updates.
I try not to bore people in real life. I mean, my husband couldn’t be any prouder, but he’s doing a bloody good job of not glazing over when I ask him AGAIN if he thinks I can handle it and mention AGAIN how excited I am.
I try not to overdo it to myself – but quite honestly, it takes up a lot of my thinking time.
I have a full time job, which is incredibly varied and keeps me very busy, and I’m finding the balancing of that with the balancing of my Dream2016 journey is very challenging. When I’m at work, then I’m at work; I work with teenagers, some of whom really need me to be 100% focused on them. And I am. I spend my days planning, leading, teaching, creating, listening and advising, and I’m very glad that I have such a widespread job which pushes me every day, because it means that I have to keep my work and my life separate. But this also means that when I do leave work and when I’m at home, I switch onto filling my thoughts with the Dream journey. And I’m finding that I never actually switch off from anything any more – not least because I also live with a rather rambunctious 6 year old, who categorically won’t really let me focus on anything other than him. And rightly so.
Pair this with the dog walking (and current constant vet visits for the slightly poorly pooch) and the fact that I do, in fact, also possess a rather patient husband – who also works full time – and between us we have to manage the school runs, trips, parents evening, housework etc. – and it’s easy to see how it really is just a short push to tip me from the edge of “a bit hectic” into full on “AaaaaghOhMyBloodyGoshI’mCollapsingUnderTheWeightOfItAll” territory.
And the truth is, it hasn’t properly started yet.
Since the start of September, we’ve had two sessions with the RSC on a Google Hangout, where we digitally connected with other groups. Each of these hangouts has produced a task of work and we’ve been meeting a couple of times a week to get those tasks done. We also had the very great fortune to have our RSC director, Kim, come to visit us for a 5 hour acting workshop last week. Kim will be coming again, as will a vocal practitioner and a movement coach.
We have only just started rehearsals for task two, and we have another task to come plus rehearsals. Plus a bonus task.
I also have a song to learn, and will be hooking up with the only other woman on the team who is playing Bottom – Lisa from Canterbury – so that we can support one another through this masculine-dominated role.
This is all going to happen in the next 8 weeks or so.
And in January (when my beautiful sister gets married) and February, we actually start our rehearsals – a couple of evenings a week of set RSC-led time, plus our own rehearsal time, plus I will be heading to London each weekend to do the “Bottom” rehearsals.
I absolutely 100% can’t wait to get started on these rehearsals – the whole experience is utterly magnificent and I cannot believe how fortunate I am to be participating in this rehearsal process.
But when I think about the fact that I am also directing the school play, am coordinating and running rehearsals for a Creative Arts Festival with 5 other schools, am organising the Christmas Carol Concert and am still doing my day job, I realise the magnitude of what I have taken on.
But this is the whole point you see – that people from anywhere and everywhere can bloody well do this – whatever else we have going on in our lives; however tough it becomes in terms of managing things – we can do this. There are going to be people involved in this who have all kinds of crap to deal with – but we will do it. Because we are so incredibly lucky to be given this, we will take it with both hands and embrace it. Even on the busiest days. Because the reward is limitless. And because we owe it to amateur theatre makers everywhere.
I do tend to thrive on action, funnily enough, because you might not think that to look at me! I work well to deadlines, and I enjoy a bit of pressure; I get some good work done when pressed. And I think that the fact that I have inherited a major work ethic from my major workaholic mother, has trained me over the last few years, to get to a place where I can actually juggle all of these balls, and not drop too many of them.
Which is a good thing. Right?
Those of you who have read my blogs before, know that I am fairly opinionated. I guess most people are. But I verbalise my opinions often. I think this is where I need to temper myself over the next few months, as this project is all about the team work. And I am fortunate that I really do love my “band of brothers” whom I am going through this experience with.
We can strop with each other (I had a brief meltdown last week related to an ill dog and the fact that I am going to have to frikken DANCE) and everyone just rallied round me. Others have gone, and will go, through similar things, but we have already found that we are genuinely becoming a real “Family” in the truest sense of the word through this project.
I am, in equal measure, excited and terrified. Excited that I get to have these amazing training workshops; excited that I get to play and create fantastic, silly and funny pieces of drama in rehearsals; excited that I get real training from the RSC – not just on Dream, but already on other Shakespeare plays too; excited that The Theatre Royal will be putting up a massive poster WITH MY ACTUAL FACE on it, and promoting us in all of their upcoming literature; excited to work with real actors and directors who earn their living doing this; excited to take a breath and perform. TEN TIMES.
But I am also terrified; terrified that they have made a terrible mistake in casting me and that I’ll mess it up; terrified that I’m going to let my team down; terrified that my family have spent a fortune on tickets, and I won’t do that justice; terrified that I have taken on something that is utterly beyond me; terrified that I’ll love it so so so so much, that I will want it to become my life.
Because that’s the crux of it; I’ve always been into amateur theatre – I’ve always done theatre in my spare time, right from being around 10 years old. I even busted out a Theatre Studies degree. And I direct plays, I write plays, I’m in plays…I impart my wisdom (?) to the next generation, and I help GSCE and A Level Drama students to get through their exams. Theatre is a massive part of my life, and to be given this experience, absolutely validates every second I have pumped into it over the years. If this is the absolute pinnacle of everything I ever do related to theatre, then it is a billion times more amazing than I ever dreamed.
And, you see, I am at a stage in my life where I’m happy with what I’m doing and with the career I am fortunate to have. But what if this IS the door I’ve been waiting for to open? And I don’t mean in terms of providing an opportunity of a job – I mean in terms of the passion of this project igniting that spark inside me that has been burning on gas mark 3 or 4 for years. What if this experience tells me to take the bull by the horns, and the donkey by the ears, and change paths?
Isn’t that the scariest thing of all?
Photo credits: Jen White