behind the scenes

with betwixt-and-between...

  • Behind"Betwixt-&-Between"

Who could have imagined when I was writing my last blog post to you, on the 18th February 2020, the reality that would sweep across the globe and become universally definitive of this year?


When theaters began to close on the 15th March, a month ahead of our first booked tour date, none of us knew just how serious or just how long the lockdown would be for the industry.

It soon became apparent as, over the course of the next week, our venues began to cancel.

It was strange as it happened. In one respect it was all expected in the circumstances; a formality, business-like. In another, terrifyingly efficient in dismantling, what for me had been more that 7 months of learning and work to put together this small, precious first UK tour...

7 months (unpaid) work - gone - it is hard to explain that

... in the same week the production of Macbeth I was rehearsing was cancelled (most of the actors waived any fee to try to assist the company in their most immediate losses), my 'day-job' closed and the patchwork of freelance events and engagements I had booked for the next two months one-by-one disappeared...

till there was nothing left

... and yet I felt lucky.

Lucky that my family was safe and I was able to stay safe too.

Lucky that our show could pack down and 'hibernate', when other creative companies I know and love were facing the terror of covering the overheads of a venue or staff, without any way of generating income.

Lucky that I had savings I could lean on and that the cost of our life, on our beautiful narrow boat, was low enough not to be a financial hardship.

Lucky - in the end - that I was furloughed from my day-work and that I had earned enough as a freelance creative over the past few years to qualify for the government SEISS scheme.

Others were not so lucky.

Many in the industry are seriously hurting and I implore you to support as many creatives as you can, whenever you have the opportunity over the next weeks, months and years.

On the other hand, totally at odds with the harshness of the situation, was the outpouring of expression, passion and talent I became surrounded by online. The wonder of artists and creatives is that you can take away everything and they'll find a way to do it anyway (there's no people like show people). My social media feed was, and still is, like a Royal Variety Performance every day of the week - the level and scope of talent and creativity was insane and that cannot help but be inspiring.

Beside this I was locked down, in what proved to be a glorious spring, on our narrow boat on the river Avon. I cannot complain. The glory of nature put on her best show (new life, otters, owls) and we had a front row seat. There was plenty of drama, mostly involving ducklings, two of which we found abandoned and being attacked the day we were supposed to be performing for J.M.Barrie's 160th birthday at his birthplace (9th May), we ended up raising them and released them two weeks ago, (we see them often and they are doing wonderfully). It was thoroughly rewarding.

Also, as lockdown was announced just two weeks before we were due to start rehearsals for our tour, there was the strange situation of our wonderful new music for the show coming in just after the tour was cancelled.

If life is art - spring 2020 was a beautiful, terrible, incomparable, unstoppable masterpiece.

There was another undercurrent for us in this time: Dan and I were planning to sell our boat in the Spring in order to try and buy something bigger for the next phase of our life. When we met, Dan had just begun to fit out what became our beloved first home from a metal shell and I always tell people, we didn't date, we built a boat. We built her, worked from her, lived on her, she even picked us up from the river outside the church on our wedding day. She was a physical manifestation of the first six years of our life together. However, she was finished and much as we loved her (and oh, how we love her) we were ready for a new project and in need of more space for Dan to have a workshop (not easy on a boat - though his on-board editing suite was something to behold). So in the time we would have been on tour, we loved her back into her very best shape and as lockdown lifted we put her on the market... Like the bird she was named after, she flew - sold within a week. A week later our offer was accepted on a gorgeous, but run down cottage, with a river at the bottom of the garden, a new 'shell' for us to love and build together. All going to plan we get the keys and move in next week. It's been a lot and it's been quick. As if life itself called 'all change please' and despite the naturally mixed emotions of so many beginnings and endings, there has been a beauty in the nature of these comings and goings that feel to me like the satisfying conclusion of a chapter of life well lived...

...and once we turn the page?

What will the next six months hold for us all, who can tell - and who would dare try to guess?

Betwixt-and-Between will be rebooking Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens at venues for February 2021, hoping by then that the theatre we all love is back up and running. We will return to finish our music - which is by the brilliant Patrick Neil Doyle and is everything and more we could have hoped for, and I will be pushing on with a little collection of writing projects I have been dreaming up in this fallow time...

... and we might get a dog!

Stay safe and hopefully we will be back performing for you soon.

  • Behind"Betwixt-&-Between"

Peter and Solomon - Arthur Rackham

We've not posted for a while over the winter and I realised our last few blogs have all been about bench marks for our show: Previews at Moat Brae, 'Cutting the Fringe' and taking the show to Poland. They have all been based on moments of achievement.

Right now we are in the process of lining up our Spring Tour which coincides with J.M.Barrie's 160th anniversary. Confirmed dates so far include London at New Wimbledon Theatre (16th-18th April), The Other Place, RSC (30th April), The Place, Bedford (30th May) and a very special date in Barrie's hometown of Kirriemuir, Scotland on his birthday (9th May) in association with the J.M.Barrie Society's JMB160 celebrations. We have been working away on some exciting creative developments too...

But before we return to updating you on progress, I would like to take a moment to recognise part of the day-to-day process behind these tangible benchmarks - doubt -

in an attempt to demystify it and hopefully encourage people that may be wrestling with doubt of their own.

In Peter's story it is quickly established that, 'to have faith is to have wings' and as a society we are so used to sharing and celebrating stories of achievement - our 'happy thoughts!' - that sometimes 'flying' with just the right amount of 'faith' and 'magic' seems like the normal route to success, we don't always take time to acknowledge that doubt often follows every flight like Peter's shadow (If only we could take it off and shut it in a drawer).

In Barrie's prequel even Peter finds himself grounded by doubt. The wise crow, Solomon Caw, tells him; 'You have caught the doubt, you will never fly home now, not even on windy days' - a feeling I'm sure we're all familiar with.

Don't get me wrong, the journey of creating this play has taken huge leaps of faith and been sprinkled with moments of pure magic, as the universe has seemed to rush in to meet our efforts, but doubt has been manifest at every level and stage of the project; creatively, financially but perhaps most obviously in the decision making associated with the parts of this process which are entirely new to me, like producing and marketing.

A shadow is a good image, it never really leaves your side, but (and this is the important bit) whilst it is always present and may loom over you at times, it becomes much less powerful every time you 'do' something, even if what you 'do' fails, you cannot help but fail less and learn more than your doubts would have you imagine.

Doubt is a reality for us all, even for Peter Pan, but doubt is not the end of Peter's story and it need not be the end of ours. Solomon promises to teach Peter 'as many of the bird ways that can be learnt by one of such an awkward shape': in the same way, as I struggle daily to master strange new skills with my 'awkward shape', I must be willing to fail or fall short more often than I succeed in order to keep moving. Moments of progress that we share publicly owe as much to managing a relationship with doubt as to any 'faith' or 'magic'. We do not always fly, but like Peter we can learn new ways to solve problems and still get where we're heading by another route.

Recently I was encouraging a brilliant young creative to put on their own show (my new favourite hobby) when their doubts spoke, 'but I'm not a producer, like you'. A producer? Like me??! I couldn't help but laugh and I quickly disillusioned them: I am NOT a producer, I'm just a creative who happens to love this story and be responsible for this show. Every day I have to 'produce' my doubt reminds what I am not, what I am failing to do, where I am falling short - it is exhausting. Yet within this short fall, there is still undeniably a small tour emerging: A tour that I can assure you has not been reached by 'faith, trust or pixie dust' but graft .... and doubt.

So, if you have a nagging desire to create I would encourage you to get very comfortable with your doubts and do it anyway.

On the path to growth you can feel torn between who/ where you are (your limitations) and who/what you are becoming (your aspirations), where one ends and the other begins is not always clear. Like Peter you can find yourself as 'not exactly a boy' 'nor exactly a bird', but a 'betwixt-and-between' - maybe there's a comfort in owning that, especially when it's what you set out to be all along.

  • Behind"Betwixt-&-Between"

It's been a couple of months since I last wrote here and it's been a time of restoration and full of learning as we've moved from the frenzied focus of creating a show to the brave new world of what lies beyond. We feel honoured to have been invited to take Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens to Poland this December by The English Theater Company of Poland, a company which aims 'to provide students of the English language with access to original examples of the living language through productions characterised by superior artistic, literary, and linguistic value that act as supplements to the educational process'.

We are so excited to be making the trip, by ferry, which aptly stops at 'Hook' of Holland - though hopefully our little Peter Pan Crew will not meet that famous captain or any of his pirates on our way there or back.

We will be joining ETC for the St. Nicolas Celebrations and will be in Europe, crossing three countries, between the 6th-16th December. We have decided to make the most of the journey by planning in stop-overs in Berlin and Hannover on our way home to enjoy the European Christmas Markets and also have made a space to visit the Air museum in Krakow which apparently has some rare planes which Dan is keen to see. It has been a tense few weeks with the uncertainties surrounding the EU and now we have the go-ahead, I feel so lucky to be able to take this opportunity to share our hard work and mutually exchange culture within the European community, which promises to be an enriching life experience and a business connection that has been so beneficial to our little company in our first year. Long may it continue.

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