So, as theatre on the Isle slowly rumbles back into life like a disused tractor, and little show ads start popping into life on social media, I thought it would be a good idea to bring back the popular reading series of “Raising The Curtain”.
Yep, for the next few weeks, you’ll be reading hilarious backstage gaffs and tales, honest and heartwarming testimonials and hopefully you’ll get a great insight on How and Why we as a Theatre Scene here do the things we do!
The past couple of years has proved a real challenge for someone who normally has about 12 projects on the go, though I like many performers have found new ways of still making a right scene of myself via the wonderful world of Zoom. Be it making a one man version of Shakespeare’s Star Wars by Richard Doescher, (still writing this from under mine and my partner’s bed encase there is a Disney lawyer walking by outside….if I disappear, YOU’LL KNOW WHY!) Teaming up with my dad for a few Facebook Live gigs or doing an entire play online with some performers from the dark and shadowy land of Southampton, in the words of Jeff Goldblum, “Life uh….finds a way”.
So now we’re a tad free-er and we can have a party legally now (cough cough), I’ll kick off with a story on how Theatre really can help with the feelings of loneliness and anxiety so many of us I’m sure have experienced so much.
After I graduated from University I was skint, I was lonely as all my friends had either gone onto masters programs or off to parts unknown, and most of all, I was stuck with coming back to the Isle.
I was spending my time bumbling around from crummyjobididntwant to crummyjobididntwant, desperate to try and save money to leave. I was sick of being stuck at my parents, my dad had a heartscare as well, and my self esteem and self image was so low it made the Mariana’s Trench seem like one of the many potholes Island Roads hasn’t yet got round to filling in here in sunny Ryde. (Christ I sound like a local ha!)
I was lucky enough however to spot an audition offer with the IWSC (Isle of Wight Shakespeare Company) and slowly through them, I started to re-intergrate with Island Life. I made friends and had something to focus on other then the mind numbing boredom of scammy phone sales and fixing broken go karts for aggy teens. After several shows it was decided the company was going to perform “Henry the 4th part 1/2” in the spring of 2015. Shakespeare’s arguably best play in my own opinion, it’s got literally EVERYTHING!!!
Swordfights, Comedy, Tragedy, Game of Thrones esque plotting, a guy called Nigel, hijinks galore! Shakespere was always praised as a populist writer, so for comparison, imagine Michael Bay, Steven Spielberg and Edgar Wright got together to make a movie, that’s what we are talking, there is literally something for everyone in it….
It tells the story of Prince Hal (future Henry 5th and played by Nye Russell-Thompson, future award winning performance artist Stammermouth) learning to give up his dissolute life of drinking in divebar taverns with the hilarious Falstaff (Maureen Sullivan on tippity tipsy top form!) and help his Father save the kingdom from a collection of very cross, very disgruntled and very Northern rebels led rather worryingly….by me, Hotspur.
Not only were we going to perform both parts together, we were taking it on tour! Yup, from Languard Manor to Trinity Theatre in Cowes, we left a rubble strewn path of destruction, chaos and thrilled audiences.
We as a company thought our way around broken props, singed hair from a few dangerously placed torches (my quiff has never fully recovered), a broken wrist (don’t ask) , a nearly broken chandelier caused by missing a decimal point or two with a tape measure, a program gaffe that meant someone called “Nigel Poins” became a recipient of an IWCP award, a broken window, a night performance played in a gale and requiring us to furnish the audience with emergency blankets and most importantly, a great feeling of togetherness and unity as we all strived to make the show as good as it could be.
In particular, I struck up a repartee with the aforementioned Mr Russell-Thompson, he’d like me had recently come back to the Isle following graduation and a failed relationship so was in a similar headspace to myself, together through the medium of swords and snappy dialogue, we genuinely found an escape from it all, no Disney moments here, enjoying the fact that Theatre gave us an outlet and a friendship that exists to today!
So i hope this helps if you’re currently feeling the world is a very new place and you’re an island looking to reconnect with people and places again. Theatre can really give you a safe space to spread your wings and focus on making not only something worthwhile, but those grey clouds a little less prelevant
Take care everybody, look forward to many more stories and great times for years and years to come!
Want to contribute your very own reflections from the Island stage? Drop us a line!