Last week should have been our week in residence at the Sir John Mills. Back in the building where we rehearsed, and the long-awaited Red Skies Guest Night. It was also the date we’d set as a potential re-start of the tour should the restrictions be short lived. Sadly, very sadly, none of that was to be. In light of that, I brought the cast and Penny together for a Zoom call. The first moment when all their faces were on the screen together was beautiful. There was a glimpse of that wonderful feeling of being together again – laughing, teasing, quoting from the show.
When the tour was cancelled, it wasn’t just the ending of a job. Over five weeks we had grown as a team, got to know one another, supported one another, and made all those costume changes and juggling of tea trays work. You rehearse a show for it to be seen by an audience. But by the time we reached our first dress rehearsal, we knew we weren’t going on tour. I’ve said this many times since but the team couldn’t have been stronger or kinder to each other. They didn’t question why we carried on with the dress rehearsals, working towards an opening night that would also be the last night. There was one moment when I sat down to give notes and briefly questioned with myself the point of carrying on. But I knew that if one of us crumbled, the whole team would grind to a halt. It was like learning to drive a car whilst knowing you’ll never actually be allowed on the road, or revising for an exam you won’t get to sit.
I know that a great many of you have asked for your tickets to be made into donations to Eastern Angles – thank you so much for that. Like all theatres and companies around the country, we need the support. And thank you to those of who you have expressed disappointment at not being able to see Red Skies, it actually did help in that week to hear that people had been looking forward to the show. We were really getting somewhere with it.
I was sorry to hear from Penny of the passing of Ian Hunter from Wivenhoe. To say he was a supporter of our work is an understatement. Penny told us tales of him helping with the get-ins, working front of house, and inviting the company to his house for supper afterwards. I am sorry I won’t get a chance to meet him. He is one of those people that epitomises rural touring. The next time EA are back in Wivenhoe, the show will be dedicated to him.
I hope that one day I will be sat in a village hall somewhere in East Anglia and I will hear Philip shout ‘Genia!’, as I have so many (many) times. In that moment I will know that the show is back on and all of this will be a distant memory. But for now, until we meet again, stay safe and take care.