Tour Memories #16 - Killruddery House
Tonight's show would have put us on the home stretch for 2020's touring run of Love's Labour's Lost. We would be turning thoughts to home (but not too much), making the most of our time together (probably a bit too much) and soaking up every second of the experience of the show we'd come to know so well.
When it comes to appreciating moments of a performance, there is no space that lends itself quite as well to this as Killruddery House does. The house and gardens themselves are beautiful beyond words, with so much to see and explore around the expanses of grass and hedgerows, concealing mysterious pond/sculpture gardens or sweeping, uniform lakes. OTG retain the incredible privilege to date of being allowed to perform in the Sylvan Theatre, which dates back hundreds of years. In this magical space, large hedgerows encircle grass, tiered seating for the audience, around a circle stage. The only entrance and exit is through magnificent, statue-lined gates. As you step out into the lights of the stage and through that gate to a full audience, you cannot help but be acutely aware of every gorgeous moment that comes with performing there.
Read some memories from our previous casts below:
Andy B - Various
"By the time you get to Killruddery we are usually about half way through the Irish leg of the tour and so you know the show inside out. However, Killruddery’s stage within a hedged wall is so special that it requires some re-blocking of dances and fight routines. This was always a great moment for the cast to group together and show real team work. It also caused hilarious moments of great desperation – Dan Meigh famously trying to keep it together while screaming “Propellers!” at a cast who had gone beyond choreography and were now fully in giggles.
Before my first show at Killruddery in 2002 I remember asking someone how many people could fit on the sloped verges inside the hedged wall. I was given the straightforward answer of “it depends how close they sit!” We’d seen people arriving at a steady pace from when the gates opened so I knew we’d have a good crowd but people just kept coming. The line of people walking in stretched as far as we could see. When the time came to walk into the space, it was rammed! People were packed in Colosseum style. Kids were sat on parents knees, beaming at the action on stage and picnic hampers had to be left outside the theatre as there wouldn’t be enough room for everyone to get in otherwise. The atmosphere was absolutely electric and at the end the whole audience got up and surged onto the stage for the final dance of Everybody Needs Somebody. Unbeknownst to us, we had been watched that evening by film actor Dennis Hopper, who had popped along for some fun as he’d been filming nearby. I can now say I’ve shared a stage with a Hollywood great!"
Daniel G - Various
"I always found Killruddery to be a little otherworldly. Like stepping back in time. The amphitheatre there, full of people on picnic blankets, is still one of my all-time favourite venues to perform. I suppose it helps that my first show there, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, was a sellout and included the sight of Bren dressed as Elvis and dancing with Dennis Hopper. My best and worst memory of the venue, though, is from playing in the Orangery because of the rain. The Orangery is lovely, and one of the best alternate rain-venues we could be offered. It was during a biblical downpour, the show was Cyrano de Bergerac. It started badly when I slipped climbing out of the van and fell flat out in the mud, straining my back and smashing my phone screen. During the full run of that tour I had one line I kept getting stuck on. I missed a cue on probably 80% of the shows. Tomo was doing a speech and from the background I had to say “100 men ‘gainst one!” I just kept forgetting - I was too busy looking interested and doing some pretty sterling and focused background acting with my face (or something). As a solution, Andy said he would squeeze me surreptitiously on the shoulder when my cue was approaching. I think I was already in a weird mood - the rain, the fall, the venue change - but he didn’t just squeeze my shoulder. He approached, staring me directly in the eyes, a funny look on his face and squeezed. As he squeezed he did a little curtsey and said something under his breath which I can’t repeat here. It completely set me off - I managed to get the line out in a strained squeaky voice and then totally corpsed. I was laughing so hard, and trying so hard not to, that it hurt. I had to turn round because the audience were already looking at me questioningly after I delivered my line with a grin on my face and a squeaky voice. I laughed so hard I was doubled over at the back of the stage, tears running down my cheeks, other cast members trying to hide me from view. I couldn’t get off fast enough. That is hands down the most unprofessional I have ever been in a show. Sorry Killruddery."
Andy B - Cyrano de Bergerac
"Performing in The Orangery was one of the strangest experiences. Having been the room where Lord and Lady Meath (plus the Dowager) would serve us tea and sandwiches, it was naturally the place to perform the show on the Cyrano tour, because the god of weather decided to hate open-air theatre that year."
Connor W -
"You cannot beat a good night at Killruddery. It's the venue that gets talked most about with our casts in terms of a magical performance, particularly for those who are yet to experience it. We've had a few really wet nights there, in fact the first 4/5 shows I did with OTG were consistently wet. I'll explain a bit below how that creates a different kind of experience. I remember the first dry show I got though, with a packed out audience on a gorgeous summer night. What an experience. Nothing prepares you for the buzz you get playing in that space to an eager crowd. The fact that the whole show has to shift slightly to accommodate a thrust stage means you find yourself paying real attention to all the tiny details of your performance again, which is enlightening 14 or so shows into a tour. You find things in the show, because of that space, that you have never found before."
Chloe H - A Midsummer Night's Dream
"Killruddery 2019 - Everything about this day and this show was unreal to me. As it got darker and we switched the lights on everything felt perfect. We managed to get the dancing right at the end, even though the change of formation totally made my head fall off. The audience were amazing who we danced with at the end and said our goodbyes to. I’ll never forget it!"
Andy B - Treasure Island
"On our Treasure Island tour of 2004 I was playing Ben Gunn, the marooned pirate who had lost his mind and was left dreaming of a piece of cheese. At one point during my (self-proclaimed) heart-wrenching 'Who is Ben Gunn?' speech about having dreamt of cheddar for ten years while being alone on the island, a small lad on the front row tapped my leg and offered me some cheese from his hamper. Before you could say “gorgonzola” all professionalism left my body, my mind went blank, I nearly blubbed at this boy’s kindness, gabbled a few phrases that weren’t my actual lines and ran off stage. Luckily my character was quite mad so I don’t think anyone noticed."