A Very British Childhood
21 Sep 2015
A Very British Childhood a play by Sarah May Jack Dome
The Pleasance Theatre 7 -30 August 2015
'Carefully constructed’ ***
‘Spectacularly erie performances’ ***
The fact that you are part of a theatre company endeavouring to perform on a professional stage in front of an audience which doesn’t exclusively consist of your relatives only really occurs once you hear the call ‘1 minute’. As the cast stands on stage, check listing that everything that should be on stage is on stage, before your very first performance, you hear the call. Suddenly the stage isn’t the Drama labs at school anymore: this isn’t rehearsal, this is real. Moving quickly towards the sides of the stage as the butterflies finally arrive you realise you’ve forgotten your very first line, brilliant. You stop, take a deep breath, and look around at those performing with you. Across the stage silent ‘good lucks’ and ‘we got this’ are acknowledged, your first line returns to you and the butterflies subside. The lights dim down and you hear foreign voices behind the black screens obscuring you from view. This is it, the intro music starts, and you’re off.
Although the first, second and maybe even the third performance all begin similarly, tension and nervousness is succeeded by muscle memory. The day always began in a similar fashion: 8:00am breakfast, 8:30-9:15 notes and/or any specific rehearsals deemed necessary, 9:15-10:15 get into costume and do Megan’s hair, 10:15 walk to the venue. At the venue at 11:00 we would be ready to warm-up by utilising professional, well thought out physical and vocal exercises which to the untrained eye does, on occasion, look a little more simple: seven 16-18 year olds walking around a bar and shouting ‘red lorry, yellow lorry’. Afterwards the muscle memory kicks in: carpet gets rolled out, coffee table comes in, sideboard in, sofa in, books pencils flower vase fruit and bowl come out of the sideboard, rabbit hutch and Julia’s suitcase to the sides, Mother’s cleaning equipment ready, cushions on the sofa…that’s it right? The window, we’ve forgotten the bay window! Bay window in, personal costume checks, and finally everyone gets into their designated positions. Do the show.
Throughout the entire process, from the initial play read through to the final performance, you consistently find and develop new ideas and skills, both as an actor and your personal performance, and from working with others in the theatre company. The content of the play A Very British Childhood also provided us all with various challenges to overcome, both mentally and physically. As students I believe this has helped us all to gain a better idea of what it means to be a professional actor, performing complex characters to unknown audiences and reviewers and making them believe.
As well as doing the show, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is an amazing event in itself too. After our performances we had plenty of time to embrace a whole new world of theatre. This included everything from three men creating a comedy sketch show based entirely on Greek mythology to a Hitchcock inspired circus. Simply walking along the royal mile and accumulating flyers upon flyers as you witness the innumerable street performers singing, dancing or frozen in position is an experience I’d be surprised to find anywhere else.
Ultimately, everything we did and achieved accounted for an amazing experience: cooking together in our accommodation, stumbling upon free stand-up in random tiny venues across town, utilising the local cinema for some r&r, and everything else. I wish the rest of the cast all the best of luck in their future theatre endeavours and I will be sure to pop back to hopefully see them all back on stage for the whole school production this December. Having turned into an Old Ardinian now I can proudly say that being a member of the Pelican’s Briefs Theatre Company is sure to become one of my most cherished memories.