Midsummer Madness – No Turning Back Now

Wednesday 24th June was a little bit unusual to say the least. Having ‘sat’ on my bottom the news that our team had been selected to appear in the RSC’s Play For The Nation project in 2016 for just over three weeks, suddenly it was all systems go.

The official RSC photo on the Barbican stage - our first look
The official RSC photo on the Barbican stage – our first look at our performance venue    Photo by Topher McGrillis RSC

The day started at 7.00am with the official launch of the project online here. It’s a bit disconcerting to find oneself the focus of attention on the internet but of course that didn’t stop me looking. The site lists all the 14 chosen teams, actors and directors and the dates and places where they will be performing. There’s some very classy photos shot in the venues (ours at the Barbican, of course) by professional photographer Topher McGrillis. Then there’s the production trailer, fetchingly entitled “Meet The Bottoms”, in which the 14 of us around the country who were lucky enough to get the part deliver a monologue from Act 4. It’s evident just from this trailer that there is going to be a wide variety of interpretations but that is what the project is all about.

Of course the site also lists the production dates. The Tower team hit the boards on May 17th – 21st at the Barbican (tickets on sale in September); if you’re really keen we’re repeating our contribution July 11th & 12th at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre at Stratford upon Avon. It would be great to see you at one/the other/both.

Having absorbed all that, it was then on to breakfast radio. Maria and I were interviewed by Penny Smith and Paul Ross on BBC Radio London 94.9. This was carried out via the telephone; just as well as Maria was in her surgery in Hanwell and I was visiting a school in Plaistow. It was a bit odd standing in someone else’s office discussing my Bottom; no wonder there seemed to be a slight note of hysteria in the responses. The recording is available here until late July (go to the last five minutes or build your excitement by listening to the whole programme – only three hours!).

Having finished my work by 11.00 (oh, the joys of being a part time freelancer) I was able to get home and check through the social media action and other internet interest. Well, I don’t think my Facebook account has ever been so busy. It was great to see the news spreading and quite touching when people I hadn’t seen in a month of Sundays started leaving their congratulations. I could barely keep up with responding – just as well I’ve yet to embrace Twitter.

BBC filming - Bottom holding forth (as usual). The others pretending to be busy
BBC filming – Bottom holding forth (as usual). The others pretending to be busy

My concentration on answering well-wishers was broken at 1.15 by an excited telephone call from my mother who had “just caught a glimpse” of me on the ‘coming up’ section of the lunchtime news bulletin. Sure enough there we were on the regional news doing our thing on some film that had been shot two nights before at the Bridewell. We had understood that this was for the 6.30 regional news broadcast so this earlier version was a surprising extra. The same piece was indeed shown again at the later time but in a slightly elongated version.As another unexpected bonus director David and Peta (Snug) had been invited onto the programme to be interviewed live. Needless to say they did us proud and Peta got to do part of his speech as Snug playing the lion; unfortunately this is no longer available on catch up but will no doubt feature in a regional news highlights programme of the year in December!

Peta and David on BBC London News
Peta and David on BBC London News

And that, more or less, was the day when seven amateurs got a taste of what it’s like being involved with the publicity machine of a national professional theatrical body. At the time of writing (the following evening) things have settled down again but I’m sure that won’t be for long. Thanks to everyone who’s supported and encouraged us in this venture so far; we’ll try and continue to do London proud!

Midsummer Madness – No Turning Back Now

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