A year’s end is a natural time to look back and reflect. And, as 2013 has been such a busy and exciting year professionally, there’s a lot to reflect on – far too much for a blog such as this, so I’m just going to focus on the most significant moments-as they seem from this vantage point.

As always in the middle of winter, I find it hard to believe that summer existed (or could exist), but it did, and 2013’s summer had in it one day I will never, ever forget – ELART’s All the World’s A Stage, performed in the RSC’s The Dell at Stratford-upon-Avon. Thinking back about that day, I can still re-create almost every moment:

– Meeting up with the cast on the banks of the Avon – all of us excited about the day ahead, slightly cloudy at that mid-morning time, but soon to become gloriously sunny -the first of many hot days ahead, though we didn’t know that then so the weather seemed particularly special.

– Sitting under a small tree, operating the sound, taking photos and really enjoying watching my cast perform two well-received shows – I’ve rarely, if ever, felt quite so proud.

– Lunch-time frisbee, with its wonderfully surreal quality, also looms large in my memory – I was highly amused by the woman, who, watching 7 men dressed in black (most of the cast) walk purposefully out onto the grass in front of The Dell stage, said excitedly to her friend, “Ooh look – I think they’re going to perform!” and then watched bemusedly as they spent 10 minutes throwing said frisbee around!

It was a truly great day and one that I not unreasonably thought at the time would be the absolute pinnacle of my year. In some ways it was – putting on a Shakespeare show is Stratford is hard to beat – but, astonishingly, The Rose Company’s Iphigenia’s adventures have at least equalled it in terms of their place in my 2013 memories – and in terms of public interest and future potential for an individual show, they have surpassed it.

I have really loved working with Lady Jane Lumley’s Iphigenia in the latter half of 2013 – July to November- and it has been a delight to watch The Rose Company start to bloom.

Highlights have included:

– Our very first show at Reading – I remember just feeling hugely proud of all involved -and, having overcome a range of difficulties, including illnesses, we really felt like a team.

– Fantastic days in Cambridge and UCL, London -a particular thrill was finding out we were performing in the beautiful main UCL building with all the columns at the front – such an appropriate view for anyone coming to watch Greek tragedy!

– The wonderfully warm local reception we have received from Lancaster audiences and critics, who seemed to enjoy our shows in the fabulous Lancaster Castle setting as much as we enjoyed performing there – cells for changing rooms and all!

– Our radio interviews – we were truly grateful for interest from Radio Lancashire and Woman’s Hour and relished the opportunity to be on the shows.

Through all this year’s projects, I have also found the support of friends and family really special and quite humbling. Thank you to all who have come to shows, “liked” on facebook, shared links, re-tweeted on twitter, spread the word about us, sponsored us etc – you know who you are!

And a huge thanks to all who have worked in any way with me on any show/project in 2013 – not just the two productions I have focused on in this blog. I can’t wait to work with you all again next year – and with other friends as well. (You know who you are too!)

A year’s end is a natural time to look back and reflect and a new year is a natural time to look forward. Here’s to 2014 – let’s make more memories!

elaru xx

My Week With Theatre

It’s been a busy week.

Last Saturday I saw two very different live shows. In the afternoon I watched Miss Julie at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester and in the evening I saw Jerry Seinfeld at the MEN arena. Miss Julie had received rave reviews and was indeed very good, though a little too “one note” overall for my taste; Seinfeld was on blistering form and the whole audience was in stitches for the full 70 minutes. It was a great day!

On Tuesday night I went to a local theatre space to see a production of The Pillowman in which three of the actors from The Crucible were performing. It was great to see them in action – each performing impressively well in a very challenging piece of theatre. I always enjoy watching actors I’m working with perform in other roles; it gives me a new perspective on them and, sometimes, unlocks interesting and different ideas about the characters they are playing in the show on which I’m working.

Wednesday night was filled with a rehearsal for Act 2 of The Crucible. We’re in the middle stage now, where decisions are starting to be made, movements set etc, though exploration is certainly still taking place. At this rehearsal, we stop-started our way through the whole act for the first ninety minutes, asking questions and experimenting with different ways of playing various moments and the impact of different lengths of pause. Some very useful work was done and a nice rhythm began to be established. We finished the rehearsal with a lurch through the final two thirds of the act without stopping. The actors are really beginning to find their characters now, and are clearly working very hard on learning lines, and this run went pleasingly well.

Thursday saw me at a dress rehearsal for a short concert I’m singing in at a tiny theatre space tonight (Saturday). I always enjoy singing with this group – a 6 part a capella group – and it was interesting to be in a new space as we haven’t performed at this theatre before. Our style, especially between pieces, is quite informal, so we had to experiment a bit with the stage and house lighting to find a balance where we could see the audience to interact, while still looking sufficiently lit on stage. I think we found the right settings; we’ll see tonight!

And so, that was my week with theatre. Throughout it, I’ve been reading Colin Clark’s diary “My Week With Marilyn” about the making of the film The Prince and the Show Girl starring Marilyn Monroe and Laurence Olivier. It’s an easy and entertaining read, but also informative and interesting. One aspect I’m finding difficult, though, is its portrayal of Arthur Miller. In the diary, he and Marilyn have just got married, and Miller is presented most unsympathetically as being a major cause of the insecurities which gave Marilyn so much trouble on the set of the film; I find it hard to reconcile the apparently generous, clever and insightful author of The Crucible with the small-minded, selfish man Clark seems to have come across. This may send me to more Miller biographies soon to see if I can get a fuller picture…

More soon.

elaru xx