‘No Matter Where You Go…’ The Blog Entry

I haven’t blogged in a while. I’m not particularly enthusiastic about doing it now either. All I feel like doing is sitting in a darkened room and staring at the wall. That’s another, un-bloggable story. Yes, its true. I do believe some things are un-bloggable.
But, I’m making myself blog. Its probably good for me. Good for me to think about something else. Good for me to do something other than stare at a black wall. It doesn’t feel good right now. It feels… I don’t know what it feels. Sorry, coming up with complete sentences right now seems like an unnecessary effort. I’m not trying to be melodramatic or self-pitying here, I’m just trying to describe my mood. So, don’t be surprised if this post isn’t the most amusing of ones.
My mood has nothing to do with the blog post subject matter itself, though, let me be clear on that before I get a whole heap of messages attempting to cheer me up via comments on how amazing it is that I performed and wrote a show whilst in Ireland.
So, last Friday, my director, Yvonne and I travelled to Wexford, Co. Wexford to put on the Irish half of ‘No Matter Where You Go, There You Are.’ It’s been an interesting experience this whole play. Certainly very challenging logistically, but also challenging emotionally as well. It became very personal and I’m still not sure that people wanted to hear about all of the stuff they ended up hearing about in the show, but, hey, its done now.
Logistically, the Irish half of the play has gone through more than its share of disasters. At one point, I did think I might have been part of Terry Gillam’s famous disaster ‘The Man Who Killed Don Quixote,’ as our luck just seemed so bad and wouldn’t get any better. Last Wednesday (keeping in mind, we opened last Friday), I got an email from the manager of the venue we were planning on using telling us that the time slot printed in the Wexford Fringe programme wasn’t going to work with them, as security closed up the grounds 15 minutes after our show was due to start. Our show was 75 minutes long. So, unless myself, my director and our audience were willing to sleep at the venue overnight, just for the glory of having seen the show at the Agricultural Museum, we had a serious problem. Our venue manager wanted us to bring the performance time earlier, but we figured that we would effectively lose one performance then (on the Friday), where most of our audience would turn up at 4pm, when we would have just been finishing.
So, instead, we decided to find a new venue. With one day to go.
Now, I’d be lying if I said I had anything to do with the miracle that was the Talbot Hotel. The last minute find of venue was due entirely to my amazing director, Yvonne, whilst I lay on the couch with my eyes closed and my arm draped over my forehead, like some sort of pathetic nineteenth-century damsel in need of her smelling salts. The wonderful Talbot Hotel, right in the middle of Wexford, agreed to let us hire some rooms (one for the first two performances, and a second one for the last day) at the same cost as what we were going to pay the other venue. So, Yvonne contacted the Wexford Fringe, told them that we had to change venues and asked if there was anything we could do to get the word out. They said, ‘oh yes, tweet the details at us, and we’ll retweet them.’ But, apart from that, ‘Good luck!’
So, we were heading off on Friday morning to an unknown venue, with a potentially non-existent audience to do a brand new show in which I told total strangers pretty much everything they’ve never wanted to know about my insecurities, self-destructive behaviour and anxieties. So, pretty much this blog on stage.
To say that I was nervous is an understatement. I had set the goal of being happy if 3 audience members turned up for each performance, so that I didn’t have to get upset when hordes of people failed to show up, but was also kind of secretly hoping no-one turned up so I wouldn’t have to tell people these things that I had decided to tell them.
Of course, the nature of the show was that I had actually already told people these things in Melbourne, but there is a large difference between recording your deepest darkest secrets and fears and sending them off to a stage on the other side of the world and having someone else play them for an audience that you can’t see, and actually standing in front of people, attempting to make eye contact with them (or avoid eye contact as the case may be) as you tell them what its like to struggle with eating disorders for the majority of your adult life, to lose your mother at 8, and how all this ties in with why you’re on the other side of the world to your friends and family.
ANYWAY. We got to the Talbot, and the first room they had for us was wonderful. It was a tiny part of their big ballroom, and it suited our needs perfectly. Enough entrances, dressing rooms, space etc. We had trouble with the projector, but I seemed to be able to fix it miraculously after 30 minutes of fiddling, so we were ready to go. The problem with fixing things miraculously, of course, is that you don’t actually know which of the 100,000 buttons and switches you pushed or flicked actually fixed the technical issue, so if it ever happens again, you’re screwed. But, that is a story for day number two of my very own ‘Lost in La Mancha’ movie. 
It got to 4pm, which was when our play was due to start, and nobody was even looking like they had turned up to see it. It was only then (after 7 months of planning) that I realised what a terrible time 4pm on a Friday was for a performance. Not everyone is taking time off work for the Wexford Fringe. Whoops. You live you learn. It was about 4:15pm and we were about to start and call it our ‘final dress rehearsal’, when a woman came running in. She’d been all the way out to our old venue and had now headed in to the new one. What’s more, she told us there were two more people following. My goal of 3 audience members was reached! Hooray! Psychologically, however, I had just shifted from ‘performance’ to ‘dress rehearsal’, so it was more than a little intimidating to shift gears again.
One of the women started to talk to me, as I was getting ready to start (I began in the audience), about how she felt she and her husband should get a discount because they had to drive all the way to the other venue and then come back again. It was not the most promising start to a performance I’ve ever had. Especially one in which people kind of have to like you to engage with you and the performance.
Anyway, I did the show. It started well, but as soon as we started getting more personal, I pulled back. I was scared and intimidated, and was worried that these 3 elderly audience members didn’t want to hear me swear and get upset and angry, and were potentially getting bored. So, I tried to pretend it wasn’t happening. I said the lines and tried to think about other things. Not great, really, but I got through it.
And the feeling of relief when I had actually gotten through one show successfully! Well, that was definitely worth it. The audience were very kind and stuck around to talk to Yvonne and I afterwards, interested in the project, interested in how it had differed greatly from what they had expected etc. Turns out a lot of people thought it was meant to be more ‘lecture’ than ‘performance.’
So, Yvonne and I went and had dinner, some wine (tea for me – I was still hoping vainly that my throat and nose might clear up) and then headed back to where we were staying in Old Ross. Yvonne’s friend’s mother was putting us up for the weekend, which was incredibly kind and incredibly wonderful. We went home to a roaring fire, more wine, a friendly welcome and warm beds. I slept so soundly. I slept so long. That morning, we had originally thought we would go out and spruik the show, but then realising that it was much more difficult than spruiking a show, say, in the Edinburgh Fringe (where everyone in the city is there for the fringe), we decided to rest up instead. It was a good choice. I lay in bed, in the quiet, and the warmth, and read a book. It was one of the most relaxing mornings I’ve had in a while and it made me realise how much I need to do a lot more of that, as soon as is humanely possible, before I lose my mind and sense of self.
We finally got going that afternoon around 2pm, after having the loveliest, most delicious, most nurturing home-made breakfast I’ve had for ages (Home made granola, home made brown bread, scrambled eggs, fried tomatoes, fresh orange juice, tea, coffee, fresh scones, oh my god, it was amazing and made me want to move to a farm straight away and start making jam and bread). We knew that we had the room all set up, so weren’t too worried about getting in the space too early.
Oh, how wrong we were.
Remember how I said the trouble with not knowing how exactly you fixed something is only problematic when you have to go back and fix it again? Well, that was the trouble we had that afternoon. And, no matter how many of those 100,000 different buttons I pushed and settings I changed, just as I had done before, the projector refused, point blank, to read my computer’s screen. It was 4pm. We had an audience (we had an audience!!!). We told them, calmly, that we wouldn’t be starting for another 15 minutes due to the technical issues and the fact that we were waiting on people from the other venue. People from the other venue turned up. It was 4:15pm. We explained we still had technical difficulties. We tried changing computers. Now the projector would read the screen, but the sound wouldn’t play. Finally, we gave in and played the video on the tiny TV and DVD player we had.
Who knows why, maybe it was a combination of stress, having people I knew in the audience, having a bigger audience or what, but that Saturday show was the best one I did. Sure we had technical issues, sure I switched some words around (‘That couldn’t happen in a bus on Sydney’ – what, Jen?), but I felt the whole thing this time. I was on the edge in every moment. It was terrifying. But it was also good.
Saturday night we went home to veggie curry, more wine, more fire and another amazing sleep. Sunday morning we couldn’t hang around very long as we had to move our stuff to the second room. So, we headed out and began the move. This final show was ok, but not as good as the Saturday. The second room was difficult as it was much smaller and had no places to hide costume changes, exits etc. I was feeling a little unwell, and had to go on a search for Nurofen (which, I was told, only after visiting the 4th shop, that you can only get in chemists now, most of which were shut, as it was Sunday, so I had to walk to the other side of town to ‘Boots’, turning a 10 minute errand into an hour long one). Whilst a baby-faced 19 year old waiter had showed us how to fix our project/computer problem the night before (after the show, of course) we had more technical issues, of a different kind, during the production, with the DVD skipping. We had another small audience of 3 (2 other people turned up, but then left – they had also thought it was a lecture). A journalist came to interview us for the Wexford Echo, but didn’t actually stick around to review the show, so that was disappointing too.
But, we got through it! We came up with a pretty amazingly complicated and ambitious idea and instead of just talking about doing it, we actually did it. We’re going to take the show back to Cork and Kinsale (where people actually know us) and we’re hoping that the show itself will develop further with the addition of other people, other countries through into next year. We’re also going to be more careful about the places that we take the show from now on – for example, the Wexford Fringe is actually the fringe of the Wexford Opera Festival, so its got a particular clientele and is generally more community based arts. We didn’t really realise this until we got there. In the end, the show is probably more of a ‘fringe-y’ Fringe show, if you get my drift.
So, that’s the wrap-up of the the first outing of ‘No Matter Where You Go, There You Are.’ I’m glad I didn’t just spend the last hour staring at the wall. In fact, I’m now not wanting to finish this blog post, because that would mean I might need to actually get out of bed and have a shower, get dressed, that sort of thing. Its midday on a Wednesday, I really should be out of bed. But I just can’t face it. Unbloggable reasons. Sorry. 

1 Comment

Filed under Ireland, Theatre

One response to “‘No Matter Where You Go…’ The Blog Entry

  1. Jenny I'm so impressed by your bravery and awesomeness! And your determination to blog about it when you felt like anything but. Lots and lots of love and pride and bragging (MY COUSIN'S MORE TALENTED THAN YOUR COUSIN etc.) coming from newcastle xoxoxoxoxo

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