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Tour Memories #8 - Plas Newydd

Tonight would have seen us make a return to a very special venue for OTG. Plas Newydd in Llangollen is the only surviving venue on our current tour that we have visited every single year since the company first began touring back in 1995. It's historic setting and expansive, picture-postcard grounds are truly beautiful. The staff at Plas Newydd have always been so incredibly supportive of Off the Ground and we can not begin to thank them enough for their help over the years.

For tonight's blog, have a read of some of our casts favourite memories from past shows at this Welsh beauty spot:

Connor W - The Musketeers

"Touring with OTG has produced a whole set of wonderfully weird, bizarre moments that I will remember for the rest of my life, or stories that one can tell in new company that, unless you could show picture evidence or call someone to back you up, people would never believe them to be true. One such story came the day of our Musketeers show at Plas Newydd. We'd been advised that the local tourist centre, who have always been very helpful, had arranged for a sort of 'walk through' the town centre for some of our cast, on the day of the performance, to help sell the show. We had been advised to come along in costume, perhaps with a prepared fight or scene or something to draw a crowd. This was actually all fairly commonplace, and has happened at various venues over the years - it usually works quite well too. On the day before we arrived, however, we were told that the town crier for Llangollen would also be joining us. Traditional Town Crier, that is. Tunic, tricorn hat, bell for bellringing, deep booming voice, leather boots. The absolute works. I was playing an Italian cardinal on that tour, with an enormous golden staff with a cross at the top and a dodgy accent. Tomo and I suddenly became aware of just how mad a day it had turned out to be when our two marauding lead characters were acrobatically doing fights across the Llangollen high street, followed closely by an Italian cardinal in full traditional dress, followed by another Italian cardinal in the flounciest red gown you've ever seen, all being announced by a real-life town crier. I can't be sure if it worked, but it felt like it did."

Ciara D - Around the World in 80 Days

"Plas Newydd is a beautiful venue, one of my favourites I think. I do remember, however, doing a lot more dramatic hand acting on that night in Wales, because of the amount of mosquitoes that were buzzing around the stage. Just about every word, action and line was punctuated with a sweeping arm to keep them away!"

Andy B - A Midsummer Night's Dream (2002)

"I began a decade of tours with Off the Ground in 2002 and Plas Newydd was our first show, so this venue always holds a special place for me. Preparations for tour would always begin a few weeks before hand with a few of us squeezing into a car and driving to North Wales to put up posters, talk to local businesses about the show and generally let people know we were on our way. Each year I went, Llangollen’s busy high street was always full of people and we’d always be met with smiles by shop owners who would often comment they’d been waiting to hear what show we were doing this year.

Each venue has something to set itself aside from the others. Plas Newydd has two. Not only do we perform in front of the beautiful house and stunning garden with many an impressive bush, we also have the incredibly large boulders dotted around the lawn that the actors would claim as their backstage (only if it wasn’t raining!)

It was behind one of those impressive bushes that I remember standing on opening night dressed in just a sarong, waistcoat and bandana waiting for the opening bars of Suspicious Minds to blare out of the speakers, that would then summon my fellow fairies and I to mark the start of the company’s performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. You can rehearse all you like, but nothing quite prepares you for that moment where there is no going back. I genuinely couldn’t go back because Tim N was behind me (sporting an even snazzier waistcoat) so my escape route was blocked. And so, with the sun still hot in the summer’s sky, we sidestepped our way onto stage and that was the first of many happy memories of touring."

Rob K - A Midsummer Night's Dream (2002)

"Pre-show set up done, chippy tea done, cast getting ready. 45mins till the start, audience arriving. You know the score. One cast member yet to arrive, however. Most unusual. Stew gets a call from a relieved Rick K to say he’s so sorry he’s late but he’d just arrived In Llandudno town centre and could he get directions to the venue. I think Stew did his quiet crossed voice when telling him we was in the wrong 'Llan', and that he was about an hour away. He was also in the first scene. I seem to remember we were a bit late finishing that night. He also got the first round in after the show."

Connor W - Around the World in 80 Days

"Plas Newydd was the venue where one reviewer described my Passepartout as 'fruitier than a ripe camembert', still my best ever review."

Andy B - A Midsummer Night's Dream (2002)

"I also nearly didn’t make it on stage for my first night at Plas Newydd for Midsummers 2002. I was running, in costume, off for a PSP (pre-show pee) and, full of the joys of theatre, I jumped in the air to tap a branch of an over head tree. Lightly tap, you understand, I’m not a barbarian. Either way, as I landed my foot got stuck in my sarong, my face hurtled towards my knees as I crumpled like a sack of spuds and I only managed to save a bloody shnozz by doing what I thought was a very stylish ninja roll out of it. Dusted myself off and thought I’d got away with it only to hear Stew call out, asking if I was ok, having obviously witnessed a grown fairy nearly smash his own face in by needlessly getting tangled in his own overly long sarong and teddy bear rolling to safety."