Hey gang, how’s it going? I’ve been a little bit quiet on this blog because I’ve been quite busy travelling around at different events and trying to gather my things together before the new school year – but I promise I’m back on it and will be posting very frequently over the next few weeks!
One of the reasons I’ve been away is because I spent the delicious first weekend of August at Euston Park for the annual VW Whitenoise Festival.
I’d be very lucky to be cast in Foolhardy Actor’s Company’s pocket-sized production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The show was an abridged, fast-paced, four-actor/12-character spectacle, which included audience participation, disco music, many costume changes, cross-dressing, and plenty of glitter. I played the roles of Hermia, Puck, and Starvelling, which was an absolute dream (pun unintended) as I got to say some pretty iconic lines. It was a show which aimed to be fun for all the family – with visual comedy for the kids and some more risque moments for the adults, and I’m super proud to have been a part of it and having small hand in creating it.
The show was taken to VW Whitenoise, a small festival in Euston Park, Norfolk. In it’s fourteenth year, the festival is a hub for VW enthusiasts, as well as having all the usual festival vibes. After we set up camp on Friday (always good to have 3 inexperienced campers setting up a tent…) we had a mooch around the park to check out the rest of the festival. The food was pretty excellent (breakfast smoothies and Vimto slushies? Yes please), the artists I managed to see were cool and very talented – I am now a fan of Millie Manders – and there was plenty of merchandise stalls and fairground rides, too. It was such a lovely little festival, and the perfect first one to go to. This was my first festival and I enjoyed it so much I’m planning on going to Latitude next year!
We performed our show four times over the course of the weekend, and with the show running to just over an hour, it was definitely very tiring! Our performance space was called the “Woodland Stage” and was the perfect space considering the subject of this show. It was a little stage and grass area surrounded by trees, and the audience sat on hay bales around us. It was quite lucky we were shaded by tress as the Saturday was incredibly hot! Unfortunately, the trees were a hindrance on the Sunday as it was windy so became quite hard to project over, but we managed!
This show was probably one of the hardest I’ve ever done, and challenged me in many ways. Firstly, working with people I didn’t know to begin with. I’m actually a pretty shy person (weird for a drama student, I know) so it takes me a while to ‘warm up’, as it were. But I quickly settled it and felt happy to share my opinions and ideas for the show in no time! Multi-roleing so many well-known characters was also a task, trying to make sure they were all different in physicality and voice, especially as some of the changes between were very fast (a few of mine were even on-stage mid-scene).
Performing outside in a festival environment is something I’ve also never done before. I had done Shakespeare outside two years ago, so the concept was not new to me, but that was in a situation where people bought tickets and knew that they were coming to see one of the Bard’s plays. Performing at a festival, however, is a completely different atmosphere. As people are there for the festival as a whole, they don’t necessarily know what they are about to see, which means that audience members can sit down or leave whenever they like. It’s disconcerting to see some audience members leave when you’re mid-way through a scene, but you have to remember it’s not always because of your performance, but that they may have had other things lined up for the day.
We definitely had a range of audiences for the four shows, and things that may have worked for one audience may not work for another – each audience is different and you have to think on your feet and tailor what you’re doing to them. Three of our audiences were a delight, laughing at almost every joke – and some things we didn’t realise were that funny – which gave us the confidence to push the boat out a little bit further and try new things on the spot. Another audience took a little while to watm up and weren’t as responsive, but that’s just the way it goes sometimes!
It’s definitely a challenge but was also a delight to be a part of, and I can’t thank Thom, Chris, Will, and Sharn enough for letting me join this crazy ride and being so lovely and accommodating.
Feel free to check out the various photos from the production and it’s preview performance above as well as on my Instagram! You can follow Foolhardy on Twitter @foolhardyactors, and find VW Whitenoise on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as @vwwhitenoise. Their website is here.