behind the scenes

with betwixt-and-between...

  • Behind"Betwixt-&-Between"

From Charlotte's web

I want to step out of chronological order for a while to recognise the help and support I have had along this project. To begin with I probably would not have started, or returned to the idea, without the original gift of this book from my sister, between having it sat on my shelf looking at me and her routine prompting to put on a play, any play, even when it was the last thing I wanted to hear, I suppose this was going to happen sooner or later. I also owe more than I can say to her constant support since embarking on this project. The same goes for my parents and all my sisters who have listened to months of me working through everything from the big decisions of venue and time to the tiny detail of how a sock might become a bird, without ever looking like it wasn't a sock?! They have listened, they have encouraged, they have been talked at and asked for opinions that have been ignored, entertained then dismissed, or eagerly absorbed by this process without further thanks or credit. Extra thanks must also go to my mum who has gone above and beyond producing our 'puppets'; bespoke dolls that one of our characters, 'Mary', has packed when she ran away from home and a beautiful addition for a moment of storytelling. Mum also worked valiantly this week to alter our costumes, including heroically restoring a Victorian traveling cloak, which arrived full of holes and covered in feathers and is now ready for its second life on the stage.

I have to thank Danny, my life and work partner of five years and my husband as of this May. He has been endlessly patient and supportive and someone I could turn to whenever I felt it was all too much for a hug, an affirmation and a reminder to get back to the work. It is Dan that helped make my ideas reality when it has come to our posters and the set, tasks he has embraced with his habitual skill and commitment to quality.

There is thanks due to anyone I have ever talked to about this project, you have all helped me sound out the ideas that have fed the final result, but particular thanks goes to those who have been more involved: Louise Pearson, I knew if ever I made theatre I would be lucky to have you on hand and your steady and thoughtful advice throughout has been endlessly helpful; Elliott Wallis, I have been able to entrust the sound design completely to your skills and am so excited to hear the end result this weekend; Charlotte Harris, thank you for stepping up to help us polish what we had blocked in the last round of rehearsal and Lily Howkins, I'm so excited to have you coming in this week to help us polish our movement before the preview.

The point of all this thanks is that, with a week till our first preview and three weeks until we open in Edinburgh I have just packed the bags of all our props and costumes and as I packed it all I realised that, with a little help from our friends, we are almost there. Now it is time for rehearsal, rehearsal, rehearsal and we can hardly do enough over the next few weeks to make sure this story is ready for you all to enjoy.

  • Behind"Betwixt-&-Between"

Once back from New Zealand the reality of the mountain that was the first six months of 2019 was clear. We got home in mid-February and immediately we were both in full production mode for Middle Realm's third short film 'White Feather'; we were shooting a bombed out field scene and Dan was eager to film before the spring growth kicked in - we had discovered a location that had been years in the finding and the results are beautiful but with that and Puppetry Training booked with the amazing Gyre and Gimble, writing the script was pushed to top of my list for March. Our wedding was booked in mid-May so I knew I really needed to get it written ASAP if it was going to happen at all - and the fear of it not happening was very real. I'm not going to lie, even with the pressure of a self-imposed deadline wrestling this unruly collection of stories in to a comprehensive play was hard. I spent most of the month fluctuating between terror and excitement - in fact to be fair that heady mix has never really left the process. It's odd, I can't actually remember writing the body of the play. I know I read the book several times and looked at all Arthur Rackham's beautiful pictures, I remember blocking out a very rough shape of bits of the book I wanted to include. I remember settling on the frame of George and Mary as one that would play to the strengths of Dan and I as actors and the exhilaration when I realised Peter's story with it's multiple characters could be told by these two. I remember one particular night, quite late in the process sitting up until three am in a flow of character dialogue that would not stop, when I eventually crept in to bed my feet and legs were so cold they were actually sucking heat out from the covers - I hadn't noticed the time or the cold. I remember printing the script out for our first company meeting and read through on the 10th April and the feeling of this thing in my hands, something physical that did not exist before. I remember the relief when the company laughed at the jokes. There have been edits and changes and cuts since then (24 drafts)- and they are still ongoing- an evolution which happens with any working script. It is the strangest thing, even now, to think that I was involved in writing this version of Pan's origin story - I feel I simply served a story that wanted to be told and gave it a way off the page and on to the stage. I can only hope I have served it well.

  • Behind"Betwixt-&-Between"

A painting at the backpackers in Kaikoura New Zealand

The week before we set off to New Zealand was spent desperately researching and contacting venues about a project that, although alive in my head, did not yet exist. On one hand this was fine, I'd spent the last three years working on (and sometimes helping write/devise) projects within a matter of weeks... on the other hand it was daunting as many Edinburgh venues had extensive application forms. Tell us about your show? Well, that was ok - 'Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens J.M.Barrie's own prequel to Peter Pan'. How many actors are in your show? ... err ... I wavered; there are a lot of characters in the book but I knew financially I needed the company to be as small as possible for this first project - I guessed somewhere between 2 and 4 - I answered '3'. What is your set like? Ha! I hadn't even begun to think of that in any detail; 'As we are in development for the show we are able to work closely with our venue to design a suitable set'... will they buy that? The week flew by and before I knew it we were flying ourselves to the other side of the world for the trip of a lifetime. I must add here that New Zealand's South Island is, I think, the most beautiful and magical place on earth and over the next 17 days put on a show for us that I'll never forget. As it turned out this first stage of producing really lent itself to the 13 hour time difference: At 7am when I woke up in NZ it was 6pm in the UK all the e-mails from the working day were there for me to look at, but there was no point rushing to answer them as no one would pick them up until the next morning, so I really had time to think as venue offers began to come in. At 7pm when we got to our nights stop and found WiFi again I'd write my responses and they would land in a UK inbox at 8am ready to be picked up first thing. Instead of checking and rechecking my emails for a response I would surrender to sleep and start again the next morning when all the days responses from the UK had arrived. In the meantime we chartered boats on turquoise seas, swam in lakes, saw whales, dolphins and penguins, glaciers and mountains, ancient Moa bones, waterfalls, albatross and kiwis ... real wild kiwis (but that unbelievable experience really is another story). As we traveled across that amazing country I began to see my way to Neverland creatively and practically, the detailed questions on the applications focused my thinking and it was here that I settled on the frame that would wrestle this unruly story into a 60-minute play. After e-mail conversations with a few lovely and supportive venues we settled on ours; venue 9: The Space@NiddryStreet. It turned out that the trip that threatened to halt the whole project a week earlier was where the seed took root and the play we have now began to grow: courage IS found in the most unlikely places and the other side of the world was exactly where I needed to be to kick start this incredible journey.

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