I have just finished a two-week run of a new musical revue called This IS My Song. It was commissioned by Musical Theatre Salisbury and told the story of the society; a journey through joining, auditioning, rehearsing, performing, making friends, falling in love. It told of what makes amateur performers tick; what makes them give up time, money, evening with the family, all for the joys of putting on a show.
It has been an amazing experience. The rehearsal schedule for the show was very tight, and we didn’t even get the script (which was ad verbatim the interviews and questionnaires of society members) until two weeks before the show opened. We put on five performances at the small Salberg Theatre in Salisbury Playhouse, then took the show on the road to the local village halls. At every venue we were right in with the audience, and they seemed to enjoy it! I think the honest and frank nature of the show really moved people. Every night we were aware of someone crying, someone laughing belly-laughs, someone (or many) clapping along in rhythm, someone singing along quietly, someone dancing in their seat. Normally you can only see the front row in a traditional theatre, so being able to see and interact with the audience was an interesting experience and a real treat.
Doing this show hasn’t been easy for me. When I first started rehearsing I had an 8 month old who would not take a bottle. Every rehearsal evening I’d need to leave the house at 7.00pm, which is when my eldest was being put to bed. Neither girl wanted me to leave; one wanted stories, the other wanted nursing. I often left the house to one calling out and the other crying, Daddy trying to settle them both down.
But eventually we settled into a sort of routine. I would read M a decent story before I left. Not a quick, hurried one, but a proper long one with the voices and everything. I’d make sure E had had a good feed from me, then Tom would strap her into the carrier and read another story to M while pacing the bedroom. E would fall asleep on Tom, who would camp out on the sofa or bed for the evening. E wouldn’t settle down to sleep on her own, so he stopped trying to put her down and just let her sleep on him. She had no milk in the evening until I came home at 10.30pm.
M told me she wished I didn’t go out singing. On days when I wasn’t rehearsing or performing she would say “Yay! I’m so glad you’re home, Mummy!”. Major guilt. But I went out, because I love it. It’s not just the opportunity for ‘me’ time (I can get that at home if I want; that’s what a cup of tea and Masterchef in replay after the kids are in bed is about!), but it’s something I absolutely LOVE doing. To paraphrase the show: an opportunity for real self-worth, a distraction from life, a tonic; a proper tonic.
Twice during the show I was complimented by someone in the cast. A chap came up to me and said “You know, I’ve never really heard you sing before. You’re bloody marvellous!”. I grinned and thanked him and asked whether he was always offstage when I sang usually. He said no, but he’d only just really heard me. Then, after the final show, a friend complimented me on how my acting has come on. I’ve always liked singing, but thought (knew) my acting left something do desire. I can ham it, I thought; Gilbert and Sullivan over-acting I can manage, but not real acting! I think real acting is maybe something I can learn, after all.
It’s nice, now, to be back at home and have some time in the evening again. Normally, after a show finishes, you get the Post Show Blues. I can remember after The Mikado in particular, feeling utterly dejected. Missing – aching for – the theatre, the cast, the camaraderie, the lights, the applause, the excitement, the buzz. But this time round, yes I miss it; but I think I relish the time I can now spend with my family more. You sacrifice so much more when you do a show with young children than before you had them. It’s so much harder to leave them behind.
BUT I am looking forward to the next project. We will be doing Oh What A Lovely War in August, so rehearsals for that start soon. A couple of weeks break, then auditions. It will get easier, I know. M will get older and better able to understand just why Mummy needs to go out and sing so often, and E will get better at sleeping by herself so that Tom isn’t left holding her all evening. Who knows, maybe I’ll go for a main role…?