There I was, the day before my departure to Cardiff and the Sherman Theatre Studio – being the first date on my 12-week tour of THIS EVIL THING – lugging some last-minute shopping home, waiting for the green man so I could cross the ever-busy Battersea Rise near my south-west London flat.
Something drew me to turn my back on the roaring traffic and instead take in the trees rustling their late-summer greenery in the light September breeze.
And that’s when I saw them. Three words on a banner poster on the side of a building to the left of the trees. ‘My Greatest Adventure.’ I was transfixed.
Is it? This journey I’m about to embark on? Is it? You know what – I think it is.
Certainly if you take everything into account: my time of life; the length of tour; the physical, vocal and emotional challenge of performing this piece that I have researched, written and assembled myself, 75 minutes long with its 52 plus characters; the different types and sizes of venues from theatre studios to Quaker school halls to medieval cathedral chapels…the fact that I’ve set it all up single-handedly (but with many a wonderful helping hand along the way); found the venues, planned the itinerary, done the publicity, hired the van, hired the driver (myself), organised someone to do the laundry and ironing (Michael Mears), found a willing helper to sort out the programmes and playscripts (M. Mears), hauled in someone to help with stage management (Mr. Michael Mears), sorted out accommodation (many generous friends stepping in here, for which they have received bountiful wine, chocolate and honey), geared myself up to teach the show to each new (and oh so quick and skilful) technician in each venue…and all unfunded. Unfunded.
I had the support and good wishes of my director Ros Hutt, sound designer Mark Noble and set designer Mark Friend, as I set out on the long and winding road, but once I put the key in the ignition on Sunday September 24th, that was it – it was down to me.
Really, shouldn’t I be putting my feet up to watch Great British Bake-Off, while I wait for my agent to phone with a nice little telly or film job? Tempting though that is, something has compelled me to bring this piece to life – those courageous young men 100 years ago who resisted the rush to war, even if it might lead them to the firing squad.
I’ve had other adventures in my time, of course: of the romantic kind, of the health-scare kind; in 2003, I took eight weeks out to walk 500 miles on the medieval pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostela. And acting-wise, I’ve previously brought to life two stage solo plays and had plenty an adventurous acting job over the years (don’t get me started on the Sharpe’s Rifles stories…filmed in the Crimea…).
But I think the sign on the side of the building was right (a modern church, by the way).
This is my greatest adventure.
Have a think over a cup of coffee one day this week. What’s yours?