Friday, 22 May 2015

Sugar Water Rehearsal Diary: Week 2

Genevieve is currently in rehearsal for a play which kicks off in London before going up to Edinburgh for the Festival. Here's her guest blog...
By Genevieve Barr, cast member
Genevieve in rehearsals at Graeae. She sits cross legged on the floor of the rehearsal room with script and pencil laid out in front of her. She is wearing leggings and hoodie.
Genevieve in rehearsals at Graea
Exploding boxes, pyjamas, licking necks and lots and lots of baked beans.
After six months overseas, I returned to the UK last month to start rehearsals for a brand new play written by Jack Thorne, ‘The Solid Life of Sugar Water’. I play the part of ‘Alice’. My wonderful counterpart, Arthur, plays my husband ‘Phil’. And that’s it. There’s two of us. And sixty-six pages of script staring at us.
A tumultuous journey so far, we are finally reaching the end of the second week and gasping for a few days off – but there will be no resting on our laurels. Next week is the last week at Graeae before we take the production to Plymouth, and a dawning of dread is already starting to swirl around my ankles.
So let’s not talk about that.
I am fortunate to have some very supportive friends, whom this week, have kept me in reality check. For when asked about my day, the other day, I said:
“This morning I was experiencing the beginnings of foreplay in bed, this afternoon I went to the cinema, an art gallery and had a kiss on a bridge. I don’t know which one – the text doesn’t say.”
Bless them, because rather than get bogged down the details, they turned to me and said:
“Gen, what on earth are you talking about?”
And that’s the real struggle as you get more and more immersed in this beautiful play, you start to go slightly insane. Acting isn’t about playing the role, it’s about becoming the role. And so, every day ‘Alice’ becomes more Genevieve and Genevieve becomes more ‘Alice’. You might as well start calling us ‘Genalice’.
Thank goodness my character’s name is not ‘Tilda’.
(Try taking the first two syllables of my first name, and the first syllable of ‘Tilda’ and see if you get what I mean)…
Probably not that funny. Sorry.
When I first read the play, two things became immediately transparent to me:
1) This would be one of the toughest roles I’ve had the fortune to play.
2) My granny was definitely, firmly, assertively NOT allowed to come and see it. Our relationship would never recover.
To pinch some of Jack Thorne’s words when he was talking about the play the other day, it is a story about recovery. The couple are trying to deal with a very traumatic event – with the death of a newborn baby and through their grief, their relationship has deteriorated. They have to rediscover why they loved each other in the first place and deal with having sex for the first time since it happened. We will take you through a journey of our relationship – flashing back into the past, but also trying to have sex- an uncomfortable experience both textually and literally.
At least for me – I can’t speak for Arthur!
For while Phil and Alice have been married for a few years, Arthur and Genevieve have only known each other a couple of weeks. The trust and amount you have to give each other in a very short period of time is immense. It isn’t always easy – but we are getting there.
Amit, our director, does a great job of keeping me sane (ironically, for those who know him). He understands which buttons to push with me.
At the start of the week, I was really grappling with with the physical aspects of the play – the movement on the bed (for the bed is upright against the wall, so when we are lying down, we are standing up and when we are standing up, we are lying down)…the mind just boggles. There are a lot of technical aspects to figure out – for the play jumps back and forward, in fact it just hops all over the place. During all of this, I have been trying to understand who my character is and why she feeling the way she is – in every word, sentence, paragraph of the play.
We are getting there – and I am proud of the amount of progress we have made – though there is still a way to go. So it is with excitement, tremulation and slight trepidation that I look ahead to next week and what it brings.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Back in the Saddle Again... part 2

I posted a couple of weeks ago that I had decided I would start the annual Acorn Charity 100k (that's 62 miles in old money) Sponsored Bike Ride took place last Saturday. A number of people kindly got in touch to say that they would sponsor me as I would be cycling in aid of Acorn (dementia and scleroderma research) and the Sir Robert Ogden Macmillan Centre at Harrogate Hospital where I had some of my cancer treatment. The deal, if you read the blog, was that I would only cycle if the weather was very, very kind. But then, so many folks offered to sponsor me that I felt that there would have to be the combination of a tsunami, tornado, snow drifts and a plague of something from the Old Testament (frogs, locusts etc) for me not to cycle. Hoist by my own petard, as it were.

I did the absolute minimum of training - 3 rides including 1 fall and then the weather was too wet and windy to do anything more. I had originally planned to cycle to Helperby on Bike Ride day which is 11 miles but then I was getting giddy with the thought that I might be able to cycle further so I settled on Easingwold which is 17 miles and I thought that I could do that fairly comfortably. You see, the thing is, I think I can do these things, and then once I start, my competitive spirit kicks in and I don't want to stop. However, realistically, and given that I have my first 3-month cancer check-up this Thursday, I simply have to squash that instinct and be sensible - duh! (There's a first time for everything!)

My next challenge was to acquire a cycling buddy as the singing, dancing doctor couldn't face doing another care-in-the-community cycle ride with me, as he so kindly calls it. But my most long-standing cycle partner actually volunteered for the job and his girlfriend Mandy even more kindly volunteered to pick us up from Easingwold.  Tim was the most wonderful cycle buddy because a) he always has lots to chat about and b) unbeknownst to me prior to the event, he is very strict!

Now when I woke up on Saturday morning, as my beloved crashed about in preparation for a day's Acorn signage duty (and a very nice lunch in Helperby apparently!) I looked out of the window and it was both drizzling and blowing. Not good omens. Resisting the very strong urge to turn over and go back to sleep, I donned the lycra and loaded the car with the cakes that I and my friend Susan had spent all of Friday knocking out. The Acorn Bike Ride is rightly famous for its cakes!

At Bishop Monkton Village Hall all was as it always is on Bike Ride day. As I pulled into the car park, Roly, our longtime car park attendant didn't recognise me straight away - a big reminder to me that I am not the person I was twelve months ago. The usual razzmatazz of cyclists greeting each other, registering and doing the last minute checks on their bikes. And then the lovely Tim arrived and we got ready to go.

When you haven't done a lot of cycling in a very long time, it's hard to get your rhythm but we soon got going and as I waved goodbye to number 2 child who was marshalling at the start, Tim told me that he had had the very hard word from herself that 'Mummy is not allowed to do too much'. Tim told me that he had joined the club of folks who are more scared of number 2 than they are of me and that we would be stopping at Easingwold whatever!

So an hour or so later we got to Easingwold but I wasn't done yet! With a bit of cajoling my cycling buddy reluctantly agreed to cycle as far as Stillington which is the last proper place to stop before Sheriff Hutton which is half way and lunch - and which the old me would usually have eaten at about 10.30am. As we reached Stillington, the rain started to come down and waving goodbye to braver, fitter folks who were continuing, we loaded our bikes in the boot of Mandy's car and with Chloe, the terrier, on my lap acting as a hot water bottle, we headed back to Bishop Monkton for cakes and tea - the only time I have been back first ever! The first proper cyclist who had done the whole route arrived half an hour later.

So, first of all, thank you to all the marshals, registration team, kitchen teams, car parking (especially Roly), water stops, signage crew, Giles and Jenna for taking the photographs, Chevin Cycles, St John Ambulance and all the cyclists taking part who raised over £35,000. A special thank you to Tim and Mandy who kept me safe, stopped me doing too much - even when I wanted to - and were great buddies in my own personal challenge.

If you offered to sponsor me for either Acorn or the Sir Robert Ogden Macmillan Centre at Harrogate Hospital, thank you so much. I cycled 21miles or 34.5k. If you would like to send me a cheque to either of those causes, that would be wonderful. If you would prefer to BACS me, just message me with which charity you would like to support and I will send you my bank details.

This will be my last Bike Ride as part of the Acorn Committee as the time has come for me to resign and do other things with my life. Being so ill makes you re-evaluate what challenges and adventures are still left to take on. But Acorn has been a big part of my life for 15 years and some of the things we have achieved in that time will be highlights of my life. And friends I have made through Acorn will be with me always. Thank you.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Channelling my inner Mrs Bennet

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife."

How times have changed! Mrs Bennet would have been in a state of over-excited mob-cap vapours if she, like me, found herself at the start of Pride and Prejudice with two daughters engaged. Yes two! We were floating along in a state of calmness and spreadsheets with the proposed nuptials of number 2 daughter to JS, son-in-law-to-be in November when up pops number 1 with the exciting news that she too has a ring on her finger of the engagement kind and is planning a wedding next May. Or rather we are planning a wedding next May. That, of course, means two weddings in a space of six months - or 'doing a Barker' as we call it in this village.

So wedding progress so far... number 2, a true accountant and always more grown up than the rest of us put together, on her engagement last summer, immediately initiated spreadsheets, budgets, guest lists (over which we had no control and therefore no responsibility) and plans. She researched venues and she and JS presented us with a shortlist which we then visited with them. Her sisters were selected as suitable bridesmaids and despite the fact that as a family we have not all been together since last September, bridesmaid dresses were selected down to a shortlist of two. The wedding dress was chosen, church visited, colours for bridesmaid dresses, flowers, chair covers, band, dance floor, food, cake, wine... have I forgotten anything? And all with the minimum of fuss and in the manner of a benevolent dictatorship. Then the inevitable happened and there was a slight wobble about the colour of things and a new directive was issued. All calm.

At this point I, of course, am quietly having a Mrs Bennet-like mild fit of the vapours (not quite at the smelling salts stage) because I don't know what to wear. Having an appearance which can only be described as 'fluid' over the last twelve months, it's hard to imagine myself in full mother-of-the-bride regalia. However I am sure once my Annie Lennox look grows into something more luxuriant (hoping anyway) it will be easier to go and try things on and grasp the nettle as it were.

Then two weeks ago on a mother and daughters 2 and 4 weekend in Edinburgh which was my lovely treat from the aforementioned siblings, number 1 and Valentine, the boyfriend, ambushed me in our Saturday night restaurant of choice. Of course, the sisters had organised this and it was wonderful to see the child I had not seen since October. But, unknown to her sisters, she had also received a proposal from her bf - now fiance - on her favourite beach on Colonsay and was now sporting a very sparkly solitaire. Excellent.

Fast forward two weeks and we are now working on a second wedding which is a completely different ball game - if you'll pardon the pun as touch rugby has definitely been mentioned. And here we are again with rather less spreadsheet precision, a lot more variables, suggestions of fairground attractions (not the band of the same name), different types of tent, multiple bridesmaids, wellies and a whole lot more. This will be interesting...

And in the meantime, we have been to another wedding where I am practically making notes on proceedings for future reference and where I was honoured to read the lesson. Not the lesson about the dinosaurs which was full of comedy value but the one about the art of marriage which was very serious and absolutely lovely and I only nearly cried once whilst reading.

So this is the current state of play. We shall, as Mrs Bennet would say, be very poor, pulling off two weddings. But we shall be very happy and most importantly, my beautiful older two daughters will be marrying wonderful life-long partners both of whom are undoubtedly the best boyfriends they've ever had.* Now we just need the other two siblings to wait until the family coffers have recovered before following suit.

*They have previously had some delightful and some less delightful boyfriends. All I'm saying is that you have to kiss a lot of frogs!!!

Fairground Attraction singing Perfect - exactly what these weddings will be:

My beautiful girls!