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Tour Memories #7 - Prestatyn

Last year Off the Ground visited Coronation Gardens in Prestatyn for the first time ever. The sense of community in Prestatyn, as it is in many towns across Wales, is incredibly strong. There is always some trepidation around visiting new venues, as one can never be sure how much interest a production will generate in a new area. The council at Prestatyn were fantastic, however, and what followed was one of the most special 'first nights' we have ever had at a new venue. Read a little more about our first experience of Prestatyn as a touring venue, as well as some memories from different, previous venues in Wales, below:

Connor W - A Midsummer Night's Dream

"I went out to visit Rachel at Prestatyn Town Council for the initial site visit to see if Prestatyn was a viable tour option. Even just from that initial visit I got a sense of how enthusiastic the council were, and how much they were willing to put behind the show to make it a success. The conversations that followed only reinforced this, from speaking to the local neighbours to the community centre where we drew our power from, who had a martial arts class in there during the show! Even with all that enthusiasm, I've seen new venues fail, and they can fail for all kinds of different reasons. As we watched the pre-booked ticket numbers creep up in the week leading to Prestatyn however, we knew we were onto a winner. By the time we'd welcomed our audience into the gardens, performed and been applauded off after the first scene, we knew we'd not only found a keeper of a new venue, but potentially a future touring favourite both in terms of the venue and the nature of the audience."

Daniel C - Various

"I’ve got a Bala Lake Hotel memory… The first couple of times we performed in Bala we were at what was then the Bala Lake Hotel, I’m not sure what it is called now. It was a venue owned by some friends who were in the process of renovating the place and the old croquet lawn overlooking the lake was a perfect place to perform. The audience could sit on the hotel terrace and look down on the show, getting a really full view. We did Swing in the Willows there, and I’ve got some old photos of me as a very youthful Godfather Stoat leaping athletically through the dance routines. But I was in the audience a couple of years later for my first play as writer – Treasure Island. I wasn’t in that show because my son was only about four months old, but one of my best memories of it was sitting in the audience for my first tour as writer, Noah sitting wrapped up on my knee in awe of one of the most exciting moments in the play – Leon and Jon fighting with fire poi. What could be more exciting than two pirates swinging balls of flame on the end of a chain? The next time I hit Bala for an Off the Ground Show was for my next gig as writer – The Musketeers. This time I had both my kids, much older, and we spent the afternoon swimming in the lake before heading to Gorwelion, on the edge of Bala. I had already seen the show at Claremont Farm, but one of the best things about the venues on tour is that they are all completely different. A wide open space at Claremont, an amphitheatre at Bala. It’s a cool venue for an outdoor show, there are no bad seats and the cast have ample opportunities to approach the stage from over the hill, or behind some bushes, so when you’ve got someone like Mat O, who is from the 'Andy B School of Interesting Entrances', you’re in for a treat trying to spot him coming."

Bryony T - Alice in Wonderland

"Ladders were a great idea for the set design for Alice in Wonderland. A great idea that is until we encountered high winds at Gwaenynog in Denbigh. The whole cast learnt very quickly how to dodge falling ladders and foot them at speed, and the tea pot blew off the Mad Hatter's table at one point I believe."

Tomo - The Musketeers

"God bless Bala - theatre on the gravel pit of dreams. I believe we first arrived for The Musketeers - set up, fight call, one bounce, sandwich meal deals getting fought over, the flap of the gazebo and the laughter of an excited company. This joy and laughter is infectious. And was particularly infectious to 3 of our audience members who proceeded to go and get absolutely skittled. And by skittled i mean gloriously pug-washed. And by pug-washed, I mean absolutely bajangoed. By bajangoed I of course mean one hundred percent blindsided, and by blindsided i mean spectacularly faschnickered, and by faschnickered i mean royally Tottenham Hotspurred, and by Tottenham Hotspurred I mean utterly banjoed! By banjoed i mean utterly, utterly hammered! I hasten to add they were glorious drunks. Ones that would have fit right in with our own glorious OTG drunks! They heckled, shouted out, sang along, and 'Bala' to everyone else, they were having it!"

Eleanor M - Zorro

"The hosts at Bala also provided us with lovely food and beers after the show. Felt very well looked after!"

Andy B - Various

"We used to play the Bala Lake Hotel. Incredible views which led to a lazier set up as you soaked in the surroundings. As you got further upstage the ground was nice and flat, nice and flat, slight lip, sudden drop. This resulted in many hilarious unrehearsed exits off stage or nearly unintentional shattered ankles. I also remember this particular patch of grass being home to a very aggressive and persistent swarm of mosquitoes. Looking out into an audience of people batting away flies while not being able to do anything about the ones crawling over your own face/down into your costume is enough to test the focus of any seasoned actor."

Eleanor M - Treasure Island

"The worst venue for mozzies! I remember needing to stand still for some time during Treasure Island and being eaten alive."

Andy B - Various

"If you found yourself doing some serious acting near one of the lights you were in real trouble. You could see cast members trying to get through their lines but with a black mist around them. Like something out of The Mummy."

Eleanor M - Zorro

"At Gwaenynog it was always amazing to get a big tray of tea and biscuits before the show! I also remember the beautiful sunset captured by Jon when we performed Zorro."

Connor W - A Midsummer Night's Dream

"My absolute favourite moment of that night at Prestatyn, however, was an elderly couple who arrived early with a bottle of wine and picnic and took up prime seats toward the front. I am kicking myself that I cannot recall their names, but as they were early we got talking to them and they delighted in regaling us with the story of how they had first met, many decades before. Their first date had been to see A Midsummer Night's Dream in Sweden, and now here they were, I think it was almost 50 years later(?) having not seen a production of the Shakespeare classic since, about to watch us do our thing. If they had been the only people that turned up that night, it still would have felt like an incredibly special show."

Rob K - Around the World in 80 Days

"After hanging up my OTG acting pumps, I’ve always loved going to new venues to see the shows. It’s a great way of learning about new dynamics with different spaces and the cast always like to see a familiar face when playing away. My wife and I were set to come to Bala to see Around the World in 80 days (arguably one of the best OTG shows I’ve seen). It was a really difficult time personally as my Dad had only just been diagnosed with terminal cancer. We nearly didn’t come out to see it but decided last minute to do so. It was the most amazing tonic to see a cast full of friendly faces. Losing myself in the silliness of the piece and the amazing comedic skill of the cast for a night was just what I needed. It also reminded me that some of my closest mates are OTG folk. Thanks guys."


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