It’s hard to believe it’s only been a week since our closing night. Enough time to return to normal sleeping patterns, farewell most of the team (only Linda, Libby and I remain in London, while Phoebe’s is on her way to Paris as we speak) and squeeze in a Scottish highlands road trip and a few west end musicals.
I’m not sure a week is enough time to truly reflect on the impact our tour has had (or will have) on our little company, but I am going to give it a go, while the memories are fresh and the exhaustion is still creeping round my limbs… These are only my (Maeve’s) reflections and lessons learned. If you want to hear about the others, you’ll have to ask them!
A lot of people asked me throughout the tour whether I was “having fun”. For the first couple of weeks, I felt really guilty about my inclination to say “no”. It’s not that I was unhappy, or that there weren’t joyful, hilarious or inspiring moments, but “fun” didn’t feel like the right word.
Performing and producing in Edinburgh was physically and emotionally exhausting. Phoebe and I managed a hectic schedule of shows, meetings, workshops and planning; we felt responsible for 9 other people’s well being (9 amazing other people, but we’ll get to that later); and we were constantly assessing ourselves along the way, noting mistakes or errors in judgment, acutely aware of the three years’ work that had lead to this moment, not to mention the investment of time, energy and money from the Lady team and our wonderful friends, family and supporters at home.
We weren’t “having fun” because we were at work, every day for five weeks, from when we woke up until bedtime. But what wonderful work it was. What a privilege for one’s work to be so creative, so challenging and inspiring, surrounded by thousands of other artists, all equally invested in this one huge event. The month was a glimpse of the career we’re trying to build together.
I lost count of the excited conversations Phoebe and I shared over dinner or a post-show drink, analysing the latest cabaret we’d seen (we saw a lot), debating touring schedules and plans for the next two years, pouring over sales reports and reviews, deciding upon the next day’s schedule before Phoebe posted it on the fridge, weighing up priorities and strategising best approaches to get more “bums on seats”. These conversations will form the basis for what we do next as a company, our partnership so much stronger having survived (and indeed thrived) through the past 5 weeks, without argument or even major disagreement.
We shared some great times with the gang, countless onstage winks and smiles, careening through the rain on opening night to perform at the Spiegeltent, the excitement when The Scotsman emailed us to arrange a photoshoot, delirious antics in the second or third hour of flyering, quiet (and sometimes not-so-quiet) chats at home, and that wonderful moment when we got our first 5 star review and our kitchen erupted in claps and cheers.
Feedback from those we met confirmed what we already knew (or at least hoped) to be true about the company we’ve built. Audiences gave warm accolades outside the venue; crew said working with Phoebe and Linda was a dream; Karen Koren (Artistic Director of Gilded Balloon) said we’d be welcome again, not just because we were good, but because she had seen how hard we worked; sometimes people in the street declined our flyers, then did a double take and walked back to get one, saying that they’d heard about us; and – perhaps my favourite acknowledgement that this company works – one reviewer said “the friendships wash over from the stage with mutual respect, love and gratitude.”
The month wasn’t without its challenges or issues. Some of us got sick, and the strain on a few voices, including my own, got pretty stressful sometimes. But the voices held out, belting out the notes night after night. Personally, I spent the first two weeks convinced I was about to lose my voice. I think half my problem was anxiety and jet lag, rather than vocal injury. I made some mistakes balancing the competing needs of my role as performer, producer and director, but I know I learnt a lot and will be better next time.
Living in close quarters with 11 other people had its interesting moments… We all had different sleeping schedules, and approaches to tidiness and cleanliness. Also, there was only one bathroom. Ponder that for a minute. We broke the door handle to the lounge room in week 1, and the fridge in week 2, the shower didn’t drain so well by week 3 and by week 4 most of us had given up cooking in the kitchen. But we coped, and I saw some really lovely friendships develop, support or a hug always available when someone needed it. Sometimes hugs were available even when one didn’t need them, but such are the occupational hazards of working with affectionate people!
We did some great ‘networking’ with other artists and promoters – amusingly much of it with other Australians. These connections will form the basis of much of what we do next year, and we’ve some exciting plans afoot… We were humbled by some of the amazing performers we saw, work which helped us cast a critical eye on our own show and practice, and which will make us better artists. We also saw some complete crap, but I won’t name names for fear of bad performer karma!
I think what stood out the most, in terms of an overall ‘feeling’ was that this career, this life is possible. That with hard work and focused energy, we can keep working as performers, musicians, directors, producers and crew, and that in future we could even earn a living from it. We had been so focused on Edinburgh as a goal, something to work towards, an ending to the journey. But it was just a point in time along the way, a stepping stone to a career in the arts and a milestone for this fledgling company (please excuse my mixed stone metaphors!)
On behalf of Phoebe and myself, I want to thank, firstly, Chandra, Libby, Belinda, Monique, Jenni, Lauren, Joe, Hannah and Linda – for their time, energy, commitment, passion and talent, for having faith in us and letting us learn to be producers on their watch, for getting on stage every night and delivering their best, and lastly for their humour. I thanked the company at our farewell do for being so fabulously weird. A month with them showed me all their wonderful idiosyncrasies, and it was a joy to get to know this fabulous collection of hilarious, lovely, warm and clever weirdos a little better!
Thanks also to our support in Edinburgh – Gilded Balloon staff and crew, Tim Hawkins, each night’s audience and the family and friends who visited us. Also, thank you so much to everyone at home who made this adventure possible, through donations, support, attendance at our gigs, raffle ticket purchases, conversations, extended leave from work and so on and so forth…
I don’t know how to end this blog and perhaps that’s as it should be. Here’s to the next adventure!