Mobile Phones, Heated Discussions And Laughter
This year marked the 30th anniversary of The REP's Sir Barry Jackson Community Tour. Each year we commission and produce a new play, supported by the Sir Barry Jackson Trust, to tour to community halls, cafes, libraries, schools and residential settings. Actor, Lorna Laidlaw shares her first hand experience of this year's tour.
When you've been in the protective arms of The REP's rehearsal rooms for four weeks followed by a week-and-a-half performing in The DOOR, nothing can really prepare you for the absolute joy of bringing Steven Camden's wonderful play, I Knew You, directed by Daniel Bailey and assisted by Hannah Jones, out into our local community.
One of the first performances was in a hospice. During the third scene a wonderful woman on the front row pulled a card from her bag, signed it and passed it around for the rest of the residents to sign. One man informed her that he didn't know the woman who the card was for and threw it down on the table, and continued to watch the show. This is theatre right in the middle of the community! We are in their world, we don't have the rules of a theatre to restrain or dictate how our audience should or shouldn't act and every day was a true adventure.
The REP's Sir Barry Jackson Tour is incredibly important to our communities. Telling stories that are familiar, and some that will challenge, will always bring communities together. Four Dwellings School invited another school, King Edwards, to join them at one of the performances which led to a fantastic after show discussion. One young woman claimed, “that play was about my life!"
At a care home there were elders who walked in and out during the performance; mobile phones were going off (one lady couldn't get to her phone quick enough because she had to find her glasses first); and music was playing very loudly in the hallway. There were quite a few tuts when a swear word echoed out too. But after the lights went down there was a great round of applause followed by a very heated discussion about Angela and Patrick, the two main characters played by myself and Roderick Smith. Some of the comments also brought much laughter - "She should not take him back! He's been gone 20 years - are you crazy?"
The company – myself, Roderick Smith, Brenton Hamilton and Stage Manager, Janette Maggs, were really looked after on tour too – ice cream, prosecco, coffee, tea, sandwiches all served with laughter, applause and sometimes tears. Thank you, venues.
For me one of the reasons why this tour packs a real punch is when you are approached by a woman in a library in Oldbury and a man in a community centre in Kings Heath who tell you that this production is the first play they have ever seen, and they both wanted more: job done.
Happy Birthday Sir Barry Jackson Tour, here's to the next 30 years!