After a few very busy days, the rest of the week becomes a little more relaxed with only one show a day at the next few venues. This means I have a long, leisurely, relaxed morning today. What does that mean? Laundry, of course.
After writing the blog and having breakfast I get a large load of costume shirts into the machine and come back to my room and potter.
As I’m online an email comes in with some wonderful news. The email is from the legal company in England that handles the estate of PG Wodehouse saying that I have been granted rights to develop a show based on Wodehouse’s work.
Let me you the whole story: I belong to a golf club in Oxford. Throughout the year the club stages social events for its members, usually with some kind of entertainment involved, often a tribute singer or band.
Little by little I began to think (I’m a bit slow on the uptake, generally), ‘Wait, I do shows! Why don’t I approach the club and suggest I do something?’ Then I thought further and realised that my Charles Dickens shows would be popular but there must be something I could do that would be specifically attractive to golf clubs throughout the country.
OK, let’s think about this, what do all the golf clubs have in common? Um, well, they are all clubs. What else is it that they have in common? Um, let’s work it out, Um, oh, I know: it’s golf! (I told you that I was slow).
As my expertise is in adapting and performing one man shows based on works of literature I needed to find a work that uses golf as its main theme and this is where PG Wodehouse comes in. A keen golfer himself he wrote a hilarious series of short stories set in a golf clubhouse. The central character is ‘the oldest member’ who sits in the corner and tells his tales of a lifetime spent on the golf course. Every character and every character trait he talks about are just as prevalent today as they were when he wrote: the bad tempered golfer, the golfer who relies on the rule book, the golfer who never stops talking, the golfer who drives before the players in front are out of range: all are there and every member of every club will recognise them!
I approached the PG Wodehouse Society and they passed me onto the holders of the estate. For a few months I have been fielding questions about my pedigree as a performer and sending copies of my own scripts and video clips of my performances to them as they deliberated as to whether I would do justice to Wodehouse.
And now, I have the permission: it is a very exciting moment.
The morning carries on, the laundry finishes and I iron 2 shirts for this evening. At 12 I check out from the hotel and load my things into the car and leap into the driver’s seat. Unfortunately my sunglasses are already on the seat and I hear a crack. The 2013 tour has claimed its first victim.
The drive today is actually backtracking into Massachusetts again, so I am on the same roads as yesterday. I am heading for Springfield, one of the towns that Charles Dickens visited on both of his American trips.
I stop for lunch and as I’m coming back to my car a couple are trying to help a very very frail and elderly woman from their car to the restaurant. The poor lady can hardly stand or move and looks to be very very ill. The couple cannot let her go, as she will simply drop to the ground. There is confusion as to how to shut the car doors. Of course I offer to help but they say ‘No, NO, NO!’ with an intensity and passion that is almost frightening. The anguish in their faces and body language is heartbreaking and as I back away I have an awful feeling that family tragedy is only moments away.
It is horrible to feel so helpless.
Back on the road and I reach Springfield in good time, check into another hotel and have a couple of hours downtime before heading to the site of tonight’s show, Storrowton Village.
Storrowton is an extraordinary place and I urge you to either visit or see their website. The village is made from 9 historic houses, from the 18th and 19th centuries. In 1927 Helen Storrow saw, in horror, that America was losing its history beneath rapid expansion and building programmes. She was determined to do what she could and had the 9 buildings dismantled carefully at their original sites and rebuilt here in West Springfield. The houses now sit around a village green and at the head of the green is the Meeting House, a church originally built in 1834 in New Hampshire. It is in the Meeting House that I am to perform.
I am greeted at the door by Dennis Picard a large, impressive gent in full Victorian costume, with an equally impressive booming and melodious voice. Some people look ridiculous in historic costume; Dennis looks completely at home in his.
Dennis takes me inside and shows me the space. As the Wilton High School was opposite to Blaxtons’s Hall, so is the Meeting House Opposite to the Wilton High School. From acres of space, to none! The gap between the front pew and the pulpit is about 3 feet.
One of the most exciting things about touring is the variety of venues. The show never becomes routine because it changes every night, by necessity. The show tonight can never be the same as last night and I start to look at the space for possibilities. There is a high pulpit, with steps up either side: that can be used. There are aisles up either side of the Church: they can be used. Windows with candles in them: they can become the window out of which Marley disappears into the night. Little by little the show gets rebuilt to suit the Meeting House.
The limited space is not a surprise to me. When Lisa Porter, at Byers Choice, was first approached by Dennis he showed her pictures of the building. Lisa passed the pictures on to me and asked if the show could be done there. We decided that, although it could never be the full theatrical version, certainly something more akin to a vocal performance would certainly be possible.
I won’t be having any issues with microphones tonight either, as the acoustics are amazing and no further amplification is required.
I get into costume and the Village’s official photographer takes a series of shots of me and Dennis, as well as some of me ‘rehearsing’.
At 6.45 the audience begin to arrive. It is made up from board members, volunteers and staff from the Village itself and they have all been dining and drinking in the Tavern, so the entire group has been moved en mass. When everyone is accounted for the show begins.
It is fun to use this space and play with it and the pulpit steps are perfect as Scrooge ‘went up slowly, trimming his candle as he went, as it was very dark’. The aisles become ‘the country road, covered in snow’ where the Ghost of Christmas Past first takes Scrooge. Scrooge can gaze up to Mr Fezziwig sitting ‘at such a high desk that if he’d been 2 inches taller he would surely have hit his head against the ceiling.’ It is fun but sadly not one of my best shows. I can’t quite put my finger on why, but it doesn’t seem to flow quite as easily as when it is working perfectly.
The audience are quiet (as audiences often are in Churches!) but very appreciative and applaud generously at the end. There is lots of hand shaking and ‘thank yous’, so they obviously enjoyed it, which after all is the most important thing but somehow I am left feeling a little flat and dissatisfied.
There is a very short signing period, and then I change. I thank Dennis and we say our goodbyes and I drive back through Springfield to my hotel. Earlier in the day I had noticed that there is a Longhorn Steakhouse in the same mall and I have a tender, delicious Ribeye with baked potato for my dinner before driving across the parking lot to the Hampton Inn.
I unpack my costumes to hang them up so that they can air. I treat myself to a hot bath before getting into bed.
My mind is on the show but also with the family of the elderly lady at the restaurant.