Tour Memories #5 - Claremont Farm
Claremont Farm is another fairly recent addition to the OTG touring schedule. A popular destination on the Wirral already, with its outstanding farm shop and seasonal 'pick-your-own' assortment of fruits, from the second we first arrived it felt like a no brainer that OTG and Claremont be paired together. The proprietor and our point of contact for Claremont, Andrew, is always so easy going and helpful, often leaving us to do our thing with a mutual trust between ourselves and the venue - we love to see it.
Prior to performing at Claremont Farm, our next closest venue was opposite the Bridge Inn in Port Sunlight, which was always home to a few odd memories. As a result of this nostalgia trip in itself we've decided to combine the two here to create a fuller view of the evolution of this part of our touring calendar:
Chloe H - A Midsummer Night's Dream
"I can’t remember the name of the place (it was Claremont Farm!) but the one where the helicopter came over at the most perfect time during Phil Rayner’s speech!"
Connor W - A Midsummer Night's Dream
"Phil dealt with the helicopter like an absolute pro, pausing as it whirled around the stage and the audience laughed at the awkwardness of it all. It seemed to last an eternity!"
Dan M - Every year.
"I have a problem with Claremont Farm. The problem is we always seem to get there early, which leaves us plenty of time to look round the farm shop. Which always leads to spending far too much money in their deli. Damn. I’ve thought about it now. Off to find the car keys…"
Tomo - Around the World in 80 Days
"Claremont Farm - the home of the background motorway sound track. The place to pick your own, the shop of wonders and the ground I found I could really get the steadfast, resolute, staunch, firm, constant, decided, determined, fixed, ingrained, unswerving, unwavering, unvacillating, unfaltering, unflinching Nick Crosby from Crosbie and Welsh wizard Grace Goulding to potentially crack and lose their professional shizzle. The scene was set, Fogg and his companion had to make it across the seas to carry on their adventure. Cue the semi-sighted, salty sea dog captain. The tuna tin stuffer from south west of county Cork. While I buffooned my way around the stage milking all that I could lay my hands on, including an inflatable pink flamingo that would serve us well across the seas. The only problem was I demanded Nick help me in and out of the rubber dinghy craft. Cue all hell breaking loose, of me grabbing and pulling, stepping and tripping, walking away, and back and leaving poor Nick and a Grace to deal with whatever ridiculous nonsense I could create. I still maintain that as long as the audience laugh I am allowed to turn a 30 second transition in to a 5 minute routine. They were laughing right... right? Ah well, point at the light and I'll follow ya finger. Exits singing Titanic theme. Only 15 more times we'll have to do this scene!"
Connor W - Zorro
"Claremont Farm was the first place my partner and my family came to see my debut play, I'm pretty sure. It was a very special moment for me to share that with them after the fact. It's always a solid venue and is often one that our reviewers come to, which is handy as it's always packed with a super-enthusiastic audience!"
Dan M - Unknown (Port Sunlight)
"On a night when it was already raining a bit and our stage was under trees, which just amplifies the noise of the rain, the bells from the church just 100 yards from our performance area began to toll. On stage we were already shouting the important bits of the plot, and the church bells really put pay to the audience's chance of hearing anything. Stew, our producer, went over to the church to ask for a little Christian forbearance when it came to the bell ringing but, in the words of another cast member, Daniel Cambridge, "some deep rooted inter-village politics going on meant, basically, no they would not give bell-ringing practise a rest for that one day of the year.” Then they slammed the door in Stew’s face. So we carried on shouting. We had so many interruptions from rain showers that year that our musician, Pete Raven, had created a playlist to stick on while we had a pause. I know it began with Travis and 'Why Does it Always Rain on Me?' as we heard it so many times."
Daniel C - The Musketeers (Port Sunlight)
"This whole blog thing has led to some pretty heavy nostalgia for me. I've just been reading a programme from 2003, Swing in the Willows, which came at a time I was really heavily involved in Off The Ground. It was peak time for me and OTG - I had written my first play for the youth theatre, Swinging Cinderella and her Fairly Godmother; I was teaching and directing at the youth theatre; I co-directed tour with Dan; and I'd been running stage combat workshops up and down north Wales with Jon. The next few years were similar but life took me in a different direction round about 2007. By The Musketeers I hadn't had any kinds of OTG credits for a few years, so I was keen to rekindle it dormant relationship and write something new for tour. I really loved the script writing process, but steered clear of rehearsals so that I would be able to watch it fresh on stage. I left it a couple of shows so that the cast would be on their toes by the time I got to see it and I had never been to a show at Claremont Farm, so I picked that one. The people at the venue were really friendly, and the audience was full. I've never quite got over hearing my words on stage, expertly delivered, greeted with a warm audience reaction. Needless to say I shared in the applause that night at Claremont, grinning widely and trying to stop my kids from telling everyone loudly that their dad wrote it!"
Dan M - Various (Port Sunlight)
"There was no power in Port Sunlight (I mean in our particular field, not the whole village - that would be silly) nor anywhere we could hide a generator so we nearly had to cancel our shows there before we’d even done one. We were saved by a very kind resident who heard of our plight and whose house backed onto the field. Mr Kerry Dobbins said he didn’t mind us using his electricity so for ten years we ran a plug into his kitchen and powered the show from there. He and his wife always seemed very pleased to see us and, although we don’t visit Port Sunlight any more, their generosity will always be remembered."
Rob K - Much Ado About Nothing (Port Sunlight)
"Having recently moved back to the Wirral I was helping out on the UK legs of the Much Ado tour. That year, the Port Sunlight performance was the final one before the company debunked to Ireland. A cast member had taken ill and although she trooped her way through the performance that night, it was decided she couldn’t travel to Ireland. I remember after the show Dan asking me what I was doing for the next two weeks and would I fancy learning her part in a day and jumping on board. Thrilled, I went home, learnt my lines (sort of), packed a bag and baggsied a seat in the van. Ireland, stand by. Here I come!"
Andy B - Various (Port Sunlight)
"Yeah, I seem to remember Port Sunlight marking the announcement of that year’s tour “wildcard” more than once!"
Connor W - Peter Pan (Port Sunlight)
"I only got to perform at Port Sunlight a handful of times, but the Peter Pan one will always stick in my mind. It had been a perfectly good show with a good crowd. We were aware of a big old weather front coming in and so the pace quickened slightly in the second half to try and spare our audience a soaking. We managed that, but unfortunately we weren't so lucky ourselves - the storm rolled in and we got absolutely drenched while packing everything down. I remember we spent about an hour in the pub next door sat in front of the fire, everybody was dripping from head to toe. We barely spoke, we just sat, dried, and probably burned a bit. The pub were very good to us, letting us stick our smelly, wet shoes on the hearth."
Eleanor M - Peter Pan (Port Sunlight)
"It was hammering down at the end, so we had to basically shout all our lines. I remember taking off my new pair of black Primark jeans when I got home to discover I had black legs!"
Andy B - Various (Port Sunlight)
"The green has a really nice flat surface so was great for a kick about. It’d be impossible to try and get people together for a group warm up when at 7:25 you’d still have a group of the cast finishing a game of red arse or heads and V’s. Also the shortest distance for a post-show pint. That pub was very handy!"
Rob K - Treasure Island (Port Sunlight)
"I remember coming to watch Treasure Island with a bottle of Hungarian desert wine. I cheered very loudly in the 2nd half I seem to remember."
Andy B - Twelfth Night (Port Sunlight)
"Twelfth Night tour, I was waiting to go on stage with Matty Thompson (who was helping out that year). Ever the professionals, we decided to play catch with my (full) water bottle. Why I was surprised that on just the second throw it exploded on impact I’ll never know. Either way, I slopped my way on stage with the full 2 litres dripping from my ruff, tights and cod piece."
Daniel C - Unknown (Port Sunlight)
"The Bells at Port Sunlight were terrible. Stew asking them if they would mind not ringing them for one night and discovering some deep rooted inter-village politics going on that meant, basically, no we will not give our bell-ringing practise a rest for one day of the year. I also seem to remember a proliferation is scallies. The best thing about Port Sunlight venue was its proximity to the pub for sure."
Connor W - As You Like It (Port Sunlight)
"I did my work experience on this tour, before I was cast in a production. The theme for the As You Like It show was punk-Shakespeare, and a lot of the cast had extreme haircuts, chains and leather as their costumes. A group of scallies on mopeds, if there is such a thing, were trying to disrupt the show by doing laps of the field noisily and shouting. At one point, when they pulled up nearby and were shouting abuse, myself, Jon and Ben went to have a word with them. The mere sight of Jon with a foot-long mohawk and chains, and Ben with his dark eyeshadow and leather-bondage costume must have been enough to put them off our polite request - they bolted before we'd got close and didn't come back."