Tour Memories... #1 - Maesmor Hall
Tonight is a bit of a sad night for all of us at OTG. We should have been opening our summer touring production of Love's Labour's Lost tonight at Maesmor Hall. That means we should have spent the last few weeks frantically trying to ensure every aspect of this weird, wonderful idea was being put across to our beautiful audiences with all the colour, imagination and enthusiasm we had before Covid-19 came along and ruined the party. (And glitter, did we mention it's Love's Labour's Lost with glitter?)
Sadly, that's not the case. Covid-19 has changed the world's landscapes forever and the arts industry has suffered, along with many others, as a result. We made the difficult decision a few weeks back to postpone our tour, as the travel and productions themselves simply could not be put across with the requisite safety for our actors, crew and audiences. As always, the welfare of all remains at the top of OTG's priorities list.
It's not all doom and gloom, however. Firstly, we'd like to remind audiences to keep their excitement for Love's Labour's Lost bottled up and ready to uncork on a beautiful summer's evening in 2021, when we will be bringing you exactly the show we intended to have this summer (but even better, because it'll have another 12 months work behind it). We are still in discussions to have some version of an outdoor production ready for our local audiences by mid-to-end of August 2020, so do also keep your eyes peeled for that - it could be seriously exciting...
In the meantime, until we are able to put our multicoloured tights on and throw entertainment at you in a field once again, we thought we would take this time to tell some stories from our side of the 4th wall (do blog posts count as breaking the 4th wall?)
Each and every day, over the next month or so, that we would have had a performance of Love's Labour's Lost, we will be bringing you some memories of previous tours, from our old cast and crew members, around particular venues. These memories will range from the company's inception in 1995 right up to our production of A Midsummer Night's Dream in 2019.
Tonight, we would have been opening up at Maesmor Hall, our much-trusted and appreciative 'preview' audience, who have always been so supportive. Maesmor has developed a reputation with our casts over the years for being a real test of adaptation in outdoor theatre. The extra wide stage we move to, coming straight from the rehearsal room, means there is little time to prepare for the change of dimensions - that's where instinct kicks in. Maesmor has almost always been the opening night venue for OTG's summer tours, and up until a couple of years ago we also camped at the venue after the first show. This was usually the first time that the cast had been able to relax, bask in their hard work a bit, and enjoy a drink together... possibly one drink too many!
Without further ado then, here comes a selection of brief memories of past shows at Maesmor Hall, from those that have previously graced the stage there:
Andy B - Merry Wives of Windsor
"More often that not Maesmor Hall is the stunning venue for the opening night of OTG’s summer tour. The cast are so revved up and giddy with excitement that the audience are always given both barrels of sheer theatrical energy. Having spent the previous month rehearsing in a small black box studio space it is always such a jolt to the senses to be suddenly faced with a sea of people staring back at you, beginning with a front row that stretches the length of a double decker bus. Any nerves soon go as you walk/half-jog onto stage and then plan any future entrances and exits using Maesmor’s gorgeous greenery. Twinned with the amazing feast and hot food stalls set up by Graham, the audience have welcomed us each year with open arms and left with happy hearts and even fuller tummies. After the show, the cast have been able to camp onsite which is also usually the first night everyone has stayed in one place since rehearsals began. Maesmor will therefore always be the venue where tour truly begins.
When it was the time for our Merry Wive of Windsor tour to begin, my first action was to sing "It's Not Unusual" by Tom Jones, get offstage, and immediately come back on to chat to Joey. I walk off to see Joey alllll the way on stage left, midway through a costume change into her second character. Trying to communicate this mistake, and then us both running on looking flustered must have given the impression our characters were 'at it' from the off."
Eleanor M - Twelfth Night
"The stone table at Maesmor! Pate throwing, Abbie singing and falling into a 'pond of death'! Gripping Oni in panic over forgotten lines in both Twelfth Night and Merry Wives. Stew making us flyer around Llangollen the following day while we were all incredibly hungover! So so many memories!
I remember during Alice in Wonderland, I realised just how many costume changes I had, and just how far I had to run to get on and off stage..."
Tom M - Alice in Wonderland
"I remember Brendan waking up one morning at Maesmor, after a late night swim in the lake, peering his head out of the tent with just a single leaf stuck to his forehead."
DJ J - Alice in Wonderland
"For me it has to be Brenny falling into the water at Maesmor and dragging Rich in with him as he tried to save him. Then later on Bren stomping on the stone table throwing bread..."
Dan M - Alice in Wonderland
"Singing Happiness by Ken Dodd at Bren while fending off bread rolls."
El M - As You Like It
"I loved it when we discovered the café down the road. Great breakfasts!"
Joey W - As You Like It
"Ha! I think I made it to the café once. The rest of the years I think I was too busy trying not to vom into a suitcase of my own high heels."
Dan M - As You Like It
"I only made it to the café once. The year we left Mat, who was supposedly on work experience, behind at the venue by mistake."
Andy B - Treasure Island
"Ahh Treasure Island! One of several tours where everyone's boots were knackered by the end of the first show. You'd do a patch up job with some gaffer tape and then the whole thing would just slide off the top of your foot like a ninja stealth cone."
Tomo - Cyrano de Bergerac
"At the end of the show, never being more happy to play dead in my life, being held by Eric and Andy. We'd been so on the seat of our pants up to the opening night that it looked at times like things wouldn't come together. Getting to the end of that first night, everything going fine, I've never been so relieved."
Connor W - Zorro & Sinbad
"My memories of Maesmor are a bit more of personal ones, rather than company ones. I was really fortunate to have a company like OTG, who I've loved for many years, trust me enough to pen my debut play for them, in a commission for an adaptation of Zorro. Maesmor was the opening night... the first night of my first play. Between a few of us, and I'm blaming the nerves, we managed to skip past an absolutely integral part of the story about midway through the first half, and we spent the remainder of our scenes trying to drop in subtle hints as to what the missing bits of plot were so that the audience didn't get lost. Nobody seemed to notice, so I'd say it was mission accomplished. I was very emotional after that show.
The other stand out memory from Maesmor is from Sinbad. It was a bit of a whirlwind experience for Ellie and I, both fairly new to directing and producing respectively, and there was a lot of faith put in us from the company from the beginning. We'd finally made it to opening night and we were so excited. Then I realised that Tomo had driven up all the way from London just to show his support for us both. I had a little cry in the bushes, then went on to camp it up as Mystic Myesha the grandmother."
Matty G - Various
"The free ched always went down a treat. Well, with everyone except Elliott K.*"
*Maesmor's generous hosts often pass on deli-style food to the cast at the end of the show, always a treat. The cheese has always been a big hit, except with Elliott, who is scared of cheese.