Visitors: what goes on tour… #2

Visitors by Barney Norris has been receiving rave reviews following its Press Night at the Bush on Monday! Before it arrived here last week, the wonderful cast & crew went on a short rural tour to the areas around which the play is set. Here’s cast member Eleanor Wyld’s tour diary for Days 3 & 4. If you missed the first installment have a read here

Day Three

We were allowed a nice lie in at the cottages on Friday morning so we lazed about, Simon cooked his finest scrambled eggs and bacon for us all, there were walks up to the church and the trout farm and the delicious haddock chowder in the farm shop was discovered. We piled into the bus and drove to Upavon where we learnt the real meaning of ‘Rural Touring’. Brian, who in in charge of the village hall didn’t have the key as it was with someone else in the village he couldn’t get hold of. Our show had been crossed out in the village hall bookings book, so this mystery person had taken the key thinking that the hall wouldn’t need opening up today. (Brian assures us that our booking was crossed out in BLUE pen and therefore wasn’t crossed out by him because he only ever uses BLACK pen, so therefore it wasn’t an official cancellation of our show and the key should not have been taken).

Upavon Village Hall

Linda, Dust (Linda’s dog!), Robin, Simon and myself go to the pub.

We eat a whole Camembert and drink tea while the missing key is eventually discovered and the hall is set up. It’s amazing. Strip lighting and square tables with plastic chairs, bring your own booze and bowls of peanuts for the audience to eat at their tables and a tiny raffle at the interval. The dressing room is the kitchen with only a wobbly bit of wood separating us from the audience. Linda and Robin discuss their favourite dressing rooms and it is decided this tops the Wyndham’s and the Duke of Yorks. Genuinely. We are all extremely happy in this tiny crowded kitchen with a large Romanian rescue dog, his various bowls of ‘Winalot’ and only room to stand or crouch. The audience have to walk through the kitchen/our dressing room to use the toilets at the interval. They are extremely vocal during the show and appear to be loving it. So are we, we win a bottle of red wine in the raffle which spurs us on and the second act flys by. Before we know it we are back in the pub, pint in hand chatting to the audience about farming and dementia and ‘wooofing’.

My character in Visitors, Kate, is a ‘wooofer’ – someone who works on organic farms over Europe – and in the 37 members of the audience (a bit of a record for Upavon Village hall) there was a young woman who was wooofing on a farm around two miles away from where our play is set, just like Kate. Bizarre and brilliant. We drag ourselves away from the wonderful people we have met and pile back into the van. I introduce Robin Soans and Linda Bassett to Lonely Island’s youtube sensation Jizz in my Pants. There is a lot of laughter and we sing refrains late into the night with Crab Pate from the farm shop and the bottle of wine we won for the raffle. Thank you Upavon. We had such a wonderful time.

 Day Four

Visitors Rural Tour

Another lie in, farm shop lunch and we set off to Corsham, a long drive away but very very beautiful indeed. Robin takes some great photographs; we wander around the historic town and eat a jacket potato in a pub. The Arts centre in Corsham is incredibly high tech in comparison to Upavon, a simple but fabulous studio theatre with a huge dressing room and show relay! The people working at the Arts centre are extremely friendly and run a fair trade cafe, have an exhibition of local artists ready to be hung up and displayed and something called ‘repair Friday’ where anyone can bring in things that need repairing and volunteers will fix things and give them advice. There are great films, youth plays, dance classes and music nights programmed and it’s a lovely place to be performing on the last night of our rural tour.

Visitors Rural Tour

The audience is a lot less responsive than the audiences we’ve had in Wiltshire so far – it appears they don’t quite know whether they are allowed to laugh at dementia – even though we are willing them to, in the most affectionate way. It’s a good reminder that we have to be prepared for any reaction at the Bush in London, who knows how audiences are going to respond to it in Zone 2.
Packed up with crisps and popcorn from the fair-trade cafe, Jo our stage manager and wonderful driver gets us safely home through the driving rain to an array of Leona Lewis, Beyoncé and Idina Menzal. Robin enjoys this more than Simon. We say good night for the last time after an extended game of ‘would you rather’ as the next time we will see each other will be at the tech for the Bush – we are all going our separate ways in the morning. As I pull out of the station at Salisbury for the final time this year (I’ve done this trip a lot recently) I thank Wiltshire for being so good to Visitors 2.0. I know we hope we can portray the characters of Barney’s play all the more genuinely after this rural tour.

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Visitors runs until 10 January.

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