Gurgling Giants and A Quaker Gauntlet

Feb. 19th 2017
In the last few weeks I have had three very different performances of THIS EVIL THING – as well as receiving a nudge about going for a walk – a rather long one…

On January 15th I performed in the very small, very lovely but very hot Kempe Studio, Stratford-upon-Avon – with 50 folk crammed in, sitting on IKEA folding chairs, a few rather more plush dining room chairs, and the odd sofa thrown in for good measure. (But a standard ticket price, whether IKEA folding or comfy sofa.)

The heat was something I am very used to – but not some of the audience, I fear, particularly the person who fainted at a very dramatic point in the story. After they had recovered and doors were opened and January’s cold blasts were invited in to bring down the temperature, the play continued and most people also stayed for the lively post-show discussion afterwards. The nine wooden crates which form the ‘set’ were not used on this occasion because there simply wasn’t room. (If I’d brought the crates there’d have been no room for the sofas…)

Then on Feb. 3rd I performed in a vastly different space – a vast space indeed, the school hall at Sibford School, near Banbury, where the Quaker ethos of the school was immediately felt, as I was given a lovely welcome, and a lovely cup of tea. And with 200 pupils in place for the performance, plus a few adults, there was not a sign of a mobile phone, not a glimmer.

(What a refreshing change from many another schools performance I have been involved in over the years – matinees of The Woman In Black for example, where at dramatic points in the story what had been carefully plotted as shadowy atmospheric night-time scenes were suddenly bright as a summer’s day thanks to the multiplicity of phone screens lighting up the auditorium. )

Here at Sibford School, the crates were back in action – I hadn’t picked them up or swung them around since Edinburgh, so it was necessary to get back in training for a good week or so beforehand… ‘crate-gym’…

And finally last Thursday, 16th February, my old friend Andy Greenhalgh invited me to perform for his students at Regents College, London – about 25 of them from various parts of the globe, in a very warm space in the depths of the college, where water pipes overhead in the ceiling gurgled loudly and inappropriately at various points during the performance, like a giant having trouble digesting his breakfast (don’t you hate it when that happens?).

No crates used here either – indeed the play is now becoming a bespoke piece which I can adapt for any kind of space/time limitations. And at Sibford School, for example, I was able to insert a short piece referring to the 22 conscientious objectors in WW1 who had either been scholars or teachers at the school – bringing home the relevance of the piece to those young scholars now watching a hundred years later.

The crates have now been neatly stacked back on top of two wardrobes at home, and I’m getting down to do more work on the second part of the ‘War Trilogy’ (‘Anti-War Trilogy?’); next performances of This Evil Thing being in June probably, and then definitely in a large tent in a field (a 600 seat tent no less) at the Greenbelt Festival on August Bank Holiday – Sunday 27th…

By the way, the Headmaster at Sibford, Toby Spence, mentioned to the assembled audience that on my website I talk about plans for walking the whole of the Western Front in autumn 2018 – YIKES! I’d almost forgotten that mooted plan of mine, but somehow, his mentioning it in public like that was almost a gauntlet (a very soft, Quaker-like gauntlet) being thrown down, and I thought, well, I kind of HAVE to do it now, don’t I? 475 miles from Switzerland to the Belgian coast…

Toby Spence made the prospect more enticing by saying that if I did do it, he would hope to bring a group of students from Sibford, during their half term, to walk with me for a day or two somewhere in the middle of France…so…watch this space (and by the way, where ARE my walking boots? Oh, of course – in one of the wardrobes on which the crates are stacked…).

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