Thursday, June 30, 2011


I am shattered. It is still just about light outside and there is a pile of washing up to be done, taunting me from the kitchen making cruel, mocking noises. I am attempting to drown it out with AfroReggae, and I must admit, it is pretty much working.

Cycling home from Contact today I chatted with Lowri, who was also doing the wobbling-into-traffic style of bike-riding that is required when having a conversation with another cyclist. I stopped briefly to say goodbye at the gates to her flat, where a small, round, ginger-haired girl gave us a hard stare, possibly for interrupting her important game of kicking balls and shouting.

We finished the tech run at about quarter past eight, and waited for notes from Rachel, Lee and Lawrence (director, lighting and sound, respectively). "You've just got to have fun with it now" said Lee. "Embrace the jokes." The other two nodded.

There was a collective sigh from beneath costumes. We all felt exhausted, like enjoying stuff was asking a little bit too much, actually, and we might all be better off lying face down in a darkened room for a couple of hours while a whale or two sang gently to us. Back in the dressing room we peered at each other through our individual fogs and all decided that going home was an excellent idea.

It's a hard job, all this dicking about on stage*. Woe is me, I thought balefully as I skidded into a spotlight on stockinged feet. POOR US.

Yes, we're all tired. But in the most brilliant, excellent of ways.

There was a moment today when I was crouched down, waiting to leap up from behind a box (SPOILER), and I just thought: this is so much fun. THIS IS SO MUCH FUN. THIS IS CAPSLOCK-INDUCING FUN.

Last Friday afternoon we needed a break. An uplifting, light-hearted, Friday-ish break. We needed something to force us to stop thinking. Drugs and alcohol seeming like a less-than-practical choice, we instead went for the only real option available to us at that time. Someone brought out the laptop.

Halfway through "One Moment In Time (with lyrics)", Rachel found some pens to use as microphones, and the karaoke really took off. Time After Time, Black Velvet, Proud Mary, I Love Rock And Roll and En Vogue's classic Don't Let Go later, and we were all sweaty and exhilarated. Later on I was told we could be heard in the car park. (The information was not imparted with much enthusiasm.) It was totally worth it.

The show is going to be really good. There are bits that are so funny that I think we should maybe provide Tena Lady for the audience, and the other day Roxy, the producer, wept copiously at one particularly heart-wrenching part that she must have heard at least five times. And it's fun. Today we were all weary and blinking, but come Saturday night the adrenaline will be coursing through us and sparks will fly, I don't doubt it.

I love being tired like this. Buzzing and weird, excited and aching. Proud of what we've made, like we could do anything. Bring on Saturday.

(What, haven't got your ticket yet? Don't panic, here you go.)

*Dear Arts Council, we are obviously not just dicking about, but actually doing meaningful and important work. Love from Eggs Collective x.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Life and Death

I am sitting in the upstairs foyer in Contact Theatre. It's kind of, orange and purple. And curvy. The walls bend drunkenly. Kate Bush was playing, ethereal and weird, and now it's a lounge version of Don't You Wish Your Girlfriend Was Hot Like Me. The sofa I am sitting on is blue and squishy. It enjoys me, I think.

Over to my right Lowri is talking to herself and pacing around precisely, as if performing a ritual. Dawn was on the opposite sofa, but has now gone to the shop to find some berries to satisfy her pregnancy fruit-craving. Upstairs in the big rehearsal space Dora is sharing her work with Rachel, who is picking over it and examining it for truth. Sara and Lydia are home, writing. Sophie is resting, having spent the night with her aunt who has just given birth. Helen has gone home after her session with Rachel. I am not sure where Ro is, but I know that Roxy has taken Dawn's place opposite me and is tapping away on her laptop.

I spent the morning working with Dawn. One of her pieces is a movement-and-words piece, for which she has asked for some cello. I have been quite wary of 'just' playing cello, worrying that people will think I am 'just' a musician. I realized that I actually have a bit of a complex about it, something I have only really developed since I came to Manchester. I never really considered myself a proper cellist, mostly due to the fact that I can't sight-read (or really even second- or third-sight read) and usually just make it up as I go along. I was anxious at the beginning of the process that I would be the desperate musician at the edge of the stage, keening at the spotlight, crying into my sheet music. It hasn't really happened like that, though. Rachel, the director, asked us what we most wanted to do on stage. What, she asked, have you always wanted to do?

I told her. And I am doing it. Oh, God.

We are all doing it. It's mental. And now that I'm not 'just' playing cello, I am really enjoying the parts where I am. Today I was feeling tired and a bit scattered but as I sat down with my cello I relaxed.

It's all kind of intense. There have been some tears, but no tantrums (yet).

I just feel like, wow, am I really allowed to spend my days like this? Being creative and loitering about with people I really like? I feel like I should do some temping just to balance the universe out a bit.

The other day, in rehearsal, I was worrying about getting it right, feeling anxious about being good enough and deserving to be here. Rachel understood, she told me.

"Don't forget, though" she added afterwards, "it's just a show."

It's just a show, but right now it's brilliant and consuming and I am totally loving it.

(Click here to watch the trailer and here to book your ticket.)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Let's Aim For Good

I am perched at the "breakfast bar", clattering about on my laptop and supervising the cooking. And when I say 'supervising the cooking' I of course mean 'whining hungrily and staring at the pans in case maybe I have Matilda-esque powers and can make the food cook faster'.

I love Sundays. Today Manchester has been sunny, and I have ventured as far as the bench outside our front door. I moved the little pot plants carefully and got comfortable with my notebook. I biro-scratched for twenty minutes, a freewrite for a character in the Life and Death of Eggs Collective for which we are now in full-time rehearsals. I willed the sun to tan my blue-white legs as I scribbled, squinting at the bright pages. After the freewrite I scoured what I had done, picking out the bits that weren't awful and transferring them onto another page. I tried to mould those bits into something coherent and, well, good. Good is my aim in these things, really. I haven't got the energy for excellent today. It is Sunday, after all.

I pulled words and phrases from the page like loose threads, trying to embroider them into a monologue. I instinctively try to use too much description, I think, or at least too much for a spoken monologue. I find it hard not to feel that flowery = clever, despite knowing it is not the case.

I will take what I have written into rehearsals and seek feedback, although that is still scary. Oh, wow, rehearsals have been cool. My thighs feel like they have been battered with a spiked metal club, as a result of Friday's physical stuff. "I want you to know" I told Ben yesterday "that every time I go up or down stairs I am being exceptionally brave."

"Because" I continued bravely "it really, really hurts."

On Tuesday we filmed the trailer. I arrived late as I had been in Bradford since stupid-o'clock, and I went into the theatre space via the wings, so I walked out onto the stage. It was like walking into a dreamworld, tall, be-costumed people floating about, everything dark but for a single spotlight onstage. I felt like I had wandered into Club Silencio in Mulholland Drive. It felt a million miles from trains and Bradford and hundreds of school children getting my name wrong. I had wanted to make myself wings out of some heavy, velvety material, preferably with sequins, so that when I opened my arms to play my cello the wings would undulate like treacle. However, I had very little time to source the material and make the wings. That is how I ended up being filmed wearing two halves of a shower curtain, one on each arm, scraping away on my cello, hair backcombed and face painted like a drag queen. I'm not totally sure that the shower curtain has quite the ethereal effect I was going for, especially given the whimsical cartoon water droplets it has all over it. Never mind.

The trailer will be out shortly. It's brilliant. The show is going to be brilliant. (I am a bit overwhelmed to be in it. Don't tell anyone.) The other evening, after rehearsal, I was cycling home and I just thought, oh, please, don't let me die now. Not when it's all getting so good.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Whirr Buzz

My brain is asking me disapproving questions. Why, it intones in a not-angry-just-disappointed tone, are you writing a blog post when there is washing up to do? Why, it continues, becoming terser by the syllable, are you writing a blog post when you have a script to learn? And why, may I ask (it is getting a bit nasal and whiny now) are you writing a blog post when you haven't even unpacked?

My brain is not wrong. None of these accusations are false.

My brain, however, can go and take a massive running jump. I have a gin and tonic, silence and the desire to share, all of which point towards doing right this, right now.

Crikey, things have been all go around here. This weekend we did falconry in Northumberland, which was brilliant. The falcons were great, as were the kestrels, owls, and... all the other ones (I learned a lot). The falconry man wore tweed and knew everything there is to know about birds. The more obscure the question the more he seemed to enjoy knowing the answer, which I suppose can be said for most people. His hands were the sort that have been pierced by eagle claws many a time but can still hold a pint of ale and stuff a piece of raw chicken into a leather glove to entice a passing buzzard. My only reservation about him was that he made a couple of jokes of the chauvinism-lite variety, which basically means if you react negatively to them you get told they're "only a joke, love" and are labelled a "typical woman" for not enjoying being told that you are moody and a bad driver because your bits go in instead of out. (He didn't do it a lot. I am just sensitive to bigotry, probably because I am a stupid idiot girl.) The following day we did a long walk, which started off kind of awful but ended up being brilliant, even though it was nine miles long and raining, I didn't have a coat and my boots decided they didn't want to be waterproof anymore on mile one.

Oh, also, we had falcon outfits for the falconry! We already had hats with eyes and beaks on them (made from felt, not real birds) so I made wings that tied around the back and then to the wrists so you could flap. We didn't actually turn up at the place wearing them, although that was the initial plan, but we put them on at lunchtime and Ben wore his costume for most of the afternoon.

Things That You Must Come To If You Can But If Not Don't Worry:

1. This Friday 10th June. Geddes Loom is supporting Caulbearers for their EP launch at Islington Mill, Manchester. In case you have forgotten, Geddes Loom is me, Ben and Dan being excellent.

2. Parklife Festival. 11th June. Platt Fields Park, Manchester. I am performing with Eggs Collective, on the Saturday, on the Cabaret Stage or something. In case you have forgotten, Eggs Collective is...

3. The Life and Death of Eggs Collective. 2nd and 6th July, Contact Theatre, Manchester. This is a show we are currently devising. Look at the site! Wow, you say! Yes, you did, I heard you. I am a bit gutted not to have been able to be in that totally amazing photo, but it was day three of being housebound from back-tastrophes so I had to stay at home and keen at the windows. I will write more about this whole massive exciting show another time, but right now I feel a bit paralysed by the enormity of the task. Like, shit, I should write something about this, but it's too scary. Basically, we go into rehearsals from the middle of next week. It is going to be weird and brilliant. 'Weird and brilliant', surely, is the best combination of words ever (although it is very closely followed by 'gin and tonic').

Everything is about to start whirring and buzzing about. I am a bit scared. A bit part of me just wants to go and sit in a corner and read a nice book for a while, and stop pretending I am some kind of real person who does stuff.

Now the washing up is looking at me and I have finished my gin and tonic. Time to top up and wash up.