Stars Can’t Shine Without Darkness

I am a very different person to the girl I was this time last year. In just under a month I will be heading off for my first year of university, and I am 100% sure that I am more prepared than I was 12 months ago. This year, having taken a step out of the education system for a while, I feel like I’ve grown up so much!

Until last September, my entire world was focused around school and the work I was doing there. Perhaps it shouldn’t have been if I had wanted an easier ride, but at the time it felt like all I needed was within that environment. When I left, it felt like everything had fallen apart – I didn’t have a centre anymore. Having struggled with the anticipation of this for over a year, when it actually happened my mental health suffered in a brand new way. But this lead me to something very important; a life lesson that I needed to learn.

It came from a youtube video that I saw in late September. Hazel Hayes is a vlogger and short film maker on the internet, and for the last 18 months she has been documenting her life in a series called Time Of The Month. Each month she films short sections of her life and edits them together beautifully into a half an hour episode, letting her audience know what she is up to and allowing hersef to reflect on the month that has just passed. At the end of these episodes, Hazel sets out themes and emotions that have been prominent through living the month and editing the footage and this section always, always makes me cry! I find myself relating to her story and her life so intensely every time, all the while trying to remind myself that I don’t personally know this woman (however cool I think she is!)

This is by far my favourite series on youtube at the moment and I look forward to seeing it every single month. One of the most impressive things is how authentic and honest Hazel is in sharing her life with hundreds of thousands of people. Sadly, in July 2015 Hazel experienced the end of a relationship and (luckily for me) she decided to share this experience with the world. The episode entitled August 2015 (the second after this change in her life) was published on 7th October 2015 with absolute perfect timing. I couldn’t articulate what I was feeling about leaving school and how much life had changed even though I thought I wasn’t ready for it. But then I saw this and Hazel said the words that I couldn’t find; she was describing what I was experiencing, so that I started to understand my own emotions. Everything that I want to say is in the video below, so instead of typing out word for word what Hazel says, I thought you could just watch the section at the end of this video.

Grief. That’s what it was. I was grieving. But it wasn’t for a person or a physical thing, I was grieving the life I used to know. That girl who went to school and sat in those classrooms and performed on that stage was gone and it didn’t feel like there was anything else to go to. I didn’t know what I wanted because I just missed it. I needed to give myself time to grieve that life before I could enjoy this new one.

Hands down this was the most important thing I realised this year, because then I could start make it better. I’d always thought (perhaps quite naively) that grief was only about losing someone, I’d never thought about it in any other context so I couldn’t articulate it. But once I understood those feelings, I could start to move passed it. My mental health began to improve and I started to get on with life in the real world.

It now feels like this was the lesson that sent me on the journey to adulthood. This is all sounding very cheesy, but genuinely crying at the seven minutes at the end of this video was the first step on that ladder. So, if you ever happen to read this Hazel: Thank you so much for sharing what you felt because I’m sure that I am not the only person who was helped by your words.

This video also gave me a big leap towards the piece that became Base Layer (our devised piece of theatre aiming to reduce the stereotypes surrounding youth mental illness that we performed in July) because I thought that if I had been helped by someone sharing their thoughts and feelings, perhaps my journey could help someone else. There is a recording of our performance of Base Layer here or you can buy tickets for the final performance on 10/09 here

Grief is a natural human emotion that occurs way more often than we let ourselves think. It’s OK to feel loss and sadness when something changes in your world (no matter how small you might think it is) and the best thing you can do is to acknowledge that and let yourself grieve. Something will eventually make you so happy you could burst again, but that wouldn’t be the same if you hadn’t had the sadness. It’s a very hard thing to remind yourself when the chips are down, but Stars can’t shine without darkness.

Stars can't shine

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The Chain

One of the things that help me the most is music. I have a playlist on my phone called ‘Emotional Outlet Playlist’ which has music to listen to at all sorts of moments. There are tracks to make me cry; tracks to make me smile; and specific tracks to listen to at crisis points. I am hoping to be able to share a series of these with you, but who knows how regular that will be able to be!

So, for now, this is my cover of The Chain by Ingrid Michaelson. It’s a song that, for me at least, is a lot more than just the words being sung. The atmosphere that is created is what has helped in those moments. I recorded it on the baby grand piano we had in a cottage on holiday this summer. Hope you enjoy it.

Tickets for the final performance of Base Layer are now available on the Abbey Theatre’s website. We will be performing there on Saturday 10th September, so make sure you don’t miss out! To find out more about the production, go to the Base Layer tab on the blog.

What next?

Base Layer received a fantastic response when we performed in July. So many people commented on how affected they were by the material that we presented, and best of all more and more people are talking about the topics we discussed in the piece.

Therefore, we are delighted that we have been invited to perform Base Layer again at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans. The performance will be at 7:30pm on Saturday 10th September in the studio, allowing us to spread our message to an even wider audience. Tickets are available on the Abbey Theatre website by clicking the link here.

If you weren’t able to join us in July or you would like to see Base Layer again, we hope you will take this opportunity to help us support Young Minds – the UKs leading youth mental health charity. We are delighted that we have the chance to bring Base Layer back in the autumn, and would like to thank the Abbey Theatre for giving us the opportunity to do so. We hope to see you there.

Rehearsal Video Diary 2 (If you would like to see more visual material from the project, go to the Our Work tab above)

Post Show Blues

Although Base Layer is not completely over (details in our recent post ‘Base Layer 2.0‘) the main bulk of the project we have been working towards is over. We spent a very intense three weeks with our cast and crew creating and performing the piece and then all of a sudden it was done. Hence the onset of ‘Post Show Blues’

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It is definitely not a feeling unique to the world of performing – I’m sure that the time after running a marathon (for example) would have very similar vibes! One thing that seems very clear to me is that the blues are not only unique to each individual person, but also to each project. There are many different styles and forms of the blues; it could probably be scientifically investigated!!

The crying mess
In the days following a final performance, anything relating to the show environment will make you burst into tears. I’ll give you an example from my experience:
The end of January 2015. We had just finished a run of Beauty and the Beast at school – my last school musical so it was a pretty emotional time! The last performance was on a Saturday evening, the next day I was sitting at my desk in my room trying to organise my life. I was writing lists of work etc that needed to be done, and I thought ‘I’ll be able to do those questions tomorrow afternoon because I’ll come home straight from school’ And then the flood gates opened. With the show on I hadn’t come home straight from school all term so just the idea that I wouldn’t have a rehearsal to get to and therefore could do my maths homework set me off all over again! In fact I have the tweet to prove it:

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Feeling like nothing good will ever happen again
This is in fact a common trait of most forms of Post Show Blues. Feeling like that project was so good that nothing will ever be as good ever again; no show in the future will ever live up to what you were part of. In fact nothing at all will make you as happy or as fulfilled as that project. When you go from such a heightened sense of enjoyment, to what feels like nothing it can be quite a drop. Of course there is always something just around the corner for you to throw yourself in to, but that can be hard to see and focus on when all you want to do is skip back a couple of days and do it all again.

Quoting the show in everyday life
Everything that anyone says is a quote. Even if its not quite the same, you can totally make it the same! Even if the people around you don’t know the quotes, you still make them because we can’t let the performance die! With Base Layer, we have had a lot of ‘What are your favourite sweeties?’ (Actor: Emily Webster) whenever anyone asks what your favourite of something is, or just speaks about children generally, and also ‘A blue bee!’ ‘That’s quite funny!’ (Actors: Tom Holmes and Mae Lankshear) whenever an insect flies by. 

Suddenly having time to think about all the other things in life
During a run, however long that is, I have zero headspace for anything else. Even vital things like eating and sleeping often take second place to thinking about the piece I am involved in. But then when that is taken away, suddenly there is a whole lot more space for the things you didn’t want to think about before. This is a massive one for me. Post show blues almost always brings on some sort of panic about the next big change coming up in my life, or how many things I haven’t been sorting out during the run. All of a sudden I have way more time to mither and worry and overthink which is never good for my well-being!

Loneliness
I have spoken before about how close you become with people when you put on a show together. Whether you knew each other before or not, the rehearsal and performance process will always bring you closer because you spend so much time with these people and expose so much of yourself emotionally. At the end of the run, you probably aren’t going to see them as much as you have been. All your routines will change and you won’t have rehearsals to keep you together (at least for a while). That can feel pretty lonely and scary when you have become so close and is maybe one of the biggest causes of the blues.

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So what should you do about it? Well, for me at least it’s a little bit like ‘Going on a bear hunt’ – You can’t go over it, you can’t go under it, you have to go through it. One of the worst things I ever did was try and persuade myself that I was ok about a run being over. I tried to put on a happy mask (for myself as well as everyone else) and told myself I wasn’t allowed to wallow in my sorrows. But that just made it worse and it meant that I suffered for longer and couldn’t move on to the next thing as easily.

I feel very hypocritical as I type this because I am so bad at remembering this when I’m not feeling great: It has to be ok to be sad sometimes. Everyone is always telling me that I can’t be happy all the time; that the best times only feel so good because others weren’t quite up there, so Post Show Blues is really just showing you how much you enjoyed that time and that it meant a lot to you – even if you didn’t realise it a the time.

Therefore, my top tip for post show blues is to embrace it and make sure that you don’t forget how fantastic it was. I like to create scrapbook pages and photo collections as keepsakes of a particular project. This isn’t for everyone but it allows me to fondly remember all the good moments and grieve (yes I do use that word) a little now that it is over. This was a scrapbook page that I created after a show I was in earlier on this year.

Lucy decided to pour her creativity into cake form the day after Theatre of Minds, so we had celebratory cupcakes that day.

Post Show Blues will be different every time, but they are never bad enough to stop me going back to the theatre for more. Who knows where the next project will be, but I’m sure that when that one is done I’ll think it was the best thing yet.

If you missed out on seeing Base Layer in July, make sure you keep an eye on the blog for details of our next performance (10/09/16) or check out the recording of the performance on Saturday 16th July here.

Donations

Theatre of Minds is a project set up to raise funds and awareness for the charity Young Minds – the UKs leading youth mental health charity. Young Minds work with children and young people when they are suffering from a mental health disorder, but equally importantly the charity works to support the families of those children. They run an award winning parents helpline which received 10,000 from concerned parents in 2013 to help people caring for young people through a difficult time.

We are delighted to announce that through ticket sales for Base Layer, collections and online donations we have managed to raise £2200.02 for Young Minds. Thankyou to everyone who has made a contribution to our cause – you are helping us to support young people all over the UK.

BUT we are not done yet! As you can see in this post, the Abbey Theatre in St Albans have invited us to do another performance of Base Layer in September. This will hopefully enable us to spread awareness throughout a wider community and also raise some money to join what we have already raised. Therefore, we have decided that we will be making an official donation to Young Minds in September after the end of the event.

Our crowdfunding page is still open, so if you would like to contribute, you can do so here.
We have been blown away by the reach of this project and delighted that so many people have shown an interest in what we are doing. Thankyou very much for your help, and we hope to continue the work of this theatre company in the future.

Theatre of Minds presents: Base Layer

If you missed out on seeing our performances in July, look no further! We recorded the performance on Saturday 16th July, and that is available for viewing here:

One in three children in every classroom suffers from a diagnosable mental health condition; you never know who might be affected. Theatre of Minds is a project, set up by young people between 15 and 19, to give a voice to those children and those around them.

This is a recording of our show, Base Layer, performed in July 2016 to raise money for mental health charity Young Minds. Within the performance we used spoken word, music and physical theatre to try to let anyone affected to know that they are not alone.

Thankyou to everyone who came to any of the performances of Base layer – you made the event very special for us all. If you weren’t able to make it on the night, we hope that this recording will allow you to get a flavour of what those in the live audiences experienced.

All funds raised through this project (in ticket sales and other donations) will be donated to Young Minds – the UKs leading youth mental health charity. If you would like to contribute our crowdfunding page is still open and any donations, however small, will be gratefully received: www.gofund.me/theatreofminds

ORGANISATIONS

Young Minds
Leading charity dedicated to improving the mental health of children and young people.
www.youngminds.org.uk

ChildLine
Children and young people up to 19 can contact childline to talk about anything, big or small.
www.childline.org.uk

Youth Talk
Counselling services avaliable to young people between 13 and 25 who live, work or attend school in the district of St Albans.
www.youthtalk.org.uk

Kooth
Free online counselling for young people, qualified counsellors avaliable till 10pm.
www.kooth.com

Thank you to:

Ms Shepherd, Mrs Hawkins, Miss Hosegood and all the staff at Beaumont School, Emily, Clare, Rhian and Emma at the Trestle Arts Base, Tina Swain at the Abbey Theatre, Andy Gray for technical support, Rachael Peacock at Sandringham School, Anthony Rowlands for help with fundraising, Matt and Jade at Young Minds, Syriol Jones for help with advertising, Jane Johnson at the OLLIE foundation, Debbie White at the Herts Advertiser, Kat Cormack, Kate Newton and Julie Allen from the St Albans City and District Council, Mary Crabtree, the front of house team, Rebecca and Katie for marketing material

Our show was a non-professional, all-profits-to-charity event in which we drew inspiration from a wide range of sources; plays, music, books etc. All materials used belong to the authors.
Materials used: Monkey Bars by Chris Goode, Albertine in Five Times by Michel Tremblay, Love and Information by Caryl Churchill, After the End by Dennis Kelly, Cutters Don’t Cry by Christine Dzidrums, Macbeth by William Shakespeare, 4.48 Psychosis by Sarah Kane, What it feels like to have Anxiety by Meghan Rinks, Performance Anxiety by Mind, Every Brilliant Thing and Lungs by Duncan Macmillan, Mess by Caroline Horton, Charlie and Lola Theme by John Gresswell, Engine Fire by Silent Partner, Lost Boy by Ruth B, God Moving Over the Face of the World by Vitamin String Quartet, We Bought a Zoo by Jonsi, La Campanellla by Franz Liszt, Intertwined by Dodie Clark, Say Something by A Great Big World, Holes by Layla, Sun by Jonsi, Teardrop by Massive Attack

Thankyou to Katie Walton for filming and editing the video, and we hope you enjoyed the performance.
If you would like to donate, visit our crowdfunding page and help us support Young Minds.

Base Layer 2.0

For those of you who didn’t manage to see a live performance of Base Layer last week, we have a couple of updates and an exciting piece of news:

1. We are currently working very hard to make a video of the performance available for online viewing. There have been a couple of technical hiccups in the last couple of days (hence the delay in putting this up) but things are well on their way, and we hope to have that available in the near future. Thankyou for your patience.

2. There is an album of all of the photos from the production on our facebook page, so head over there to take a look at what we created. You can also take a look at all of our visual media in the OUR WORK tab of the blog.

And Exciting News:

Due to the success of our recent performances, the Abbey Theatre in St Albans have invited us to perform Base Layer once again in order to help us reach a wider audience with our work. This performance will be on SATURDAY 10TH SEPTEMBER and tickets will be available online soon (make sure you check back here to book yours first!). Thankyou so much to the Abbey Theatre for this fantastic opportunity to spread awareness across our community. Put the date in your diary and we hope to see you there!

Performance Shots

Thankyou to our very own Katie Walton for taking on the role of photographer for the production (as well as assistant director). We now have some gorgeous pictures to remember the project by. This is Base Layer!

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Full Cast

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Lucy, Tamsin and Bethan

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Mae and Tom

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Mae and Gina

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Gina

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Emily, Gina and Toby

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Lucy

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Lucy and Tamsin

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Tom, Lucy, Bethan and Tamsin

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Tamsin, Tom, Bethan and Lucy

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Toby

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Emily

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Bethan

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Gina

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Lucy, Tom, Tamsin and Emily

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Lucy

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Tom

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Tamsin

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Emily, Lucy, Tom and Tamsin

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Emily

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Bethan, Mae, Lucy, Tamsin and Tom

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Bethan and Tamsin

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Mae, Tom, Bethan, Lucy and Tamsin

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Bethan

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Tom

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Toby, Tom, Gina and Emily

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Emily, Toby, Gina

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Tamsin

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Mae

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Tamsin and Lucy

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Toby and Mae

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Mae and Tamsin

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Gina, Emily and Lucy

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Gina, Emily and Lucy

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Lucy, Emily and Mae

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Mae

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Lucy and Tamsin

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Mae and Gina

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Toby

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Cast and crew 1

Cast and Crew

We couldn’t have pulled off such a performance without a lot of help, so Thank you to all of these young people for working so hard to create Base Layer:

Cast
Tom Holmes
Bethan Hughes
Gina Hunt
Mae Lankshear
Tamsin Sandford-Smith
Emily Webster
Toby Weidmann
Lucy Wilson

Directors
Frankie Dore
Katie Walton
Beth Wilson

Crew
Hannah Crisp
Alex Powdrell
Ellie Quinton
Joe Vernon
Jack Wills

Front of House
Elizabeth Barber
Louisa Briguglio
Cerys Falvey

Thursday 21st July

Show Day Number 2!!

Once again, we spent the morning organising ourselves and sorting out the final details for performance. Then, we met the cast and crew at Beaumont at 12:50 (the start of lunchtime there) – it was going to be a very busy day! Having already performed once we had spent the last couple of days altering the blocking for the new space – we changed the audience configuration from end on at Trestle to traverse (on two sides) so that as many people could see the performance as possible.

Over lunchtime, we set up the audience seating and positioned the props; changed into costume and switched on the lights. We had been invited to perform the piece for a third time, during the afternoon at school. It was treated as an open dress rehearsal, with an audience of year 12 and year 10 drama students as well as some staff who couldn’t make it to the evening performance, but myself and the assistant directors were still making notes to give to the actors afterwards. It was fantastic to be able to show the piece to some more people – especially those at the age group which the piece is about.

Due to the new audience configuration, we also had to switch around the cast positions. When not on stage, the actors would now be sitting among the audience so it was very helpful to have a rehearsal with genuine audience members in those seats next to them. The performance went very well and we were so grateful to Beaumont for letting us add an extra one in – the project is about spreading awareness so the more people who see the piece the better!

After the first show we had to get many, many fans into the room to try and cool it down for the next audience. We went outside and went through some final notes on the bench dedicated to Mrs Rowlands just outside our drama studio. I didn’t have very much to say, so soon afterwards we reset the stage for the evening performance and took some food outside for a break. A two show day is a lot of work, but we managed to have a good hour to relax with each other!

At about 5:45pm we went over to the hall to warm up. Most things were focused on concentration and ensemble work to bring the company together for the final time. We had our last game of concentration, adding in as many levels to the game as we could for the last time.

Then it was time to set up Front of House and for the audience to start arriving. Just like last time, I got very nervous at this point but I had some fantastic people on the team with me to stop me getting stressed about anything at all! Thankyou very much to Louisa Brigulio, Elizabeth Barber and Cerys Falvey (as well as my mum and Miss Shepherd) for helping me out!

Finally we reached 7:30pm and it was showtime for the last time. I was so proud watching the cast perform their best yet – they’ve all worked so hard and gave this final audience a stunning performance. Thank you so much to everyone who came to see the performance on Thursday evening – you were a fantastic audience and gave the actors so much to play off. It was such a special performance, and I am so grateful to everyone who helped to create that!

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Theatre of Minds has been an amazing year of experiences for us both. We haven’t yet calculated how much money we have raised as a donation to Young Minds, but we have already been blown away by the responses we have had to the piece. This has been a very therapeutic process for me, and I’ve never been more proud to be part of a production. Thankyou all!

Saturday 16th July

Show Day Number 1!!

After a morning of organising things and putting the finishing touches to the event, we met the cast at 12 noon at the Trestle Arts Base for performance number one. The first part of the day was spent sorting out a few minor things that we picked up on in the dress rehearsal. We had to make sure everything was spaced properly on the stage and we ran some of the more complicated sections to make sure they were as secure as possible. It was a couple of hours dedicated to making the actors comfortable with everything they were doing.

We may have also got something stuck up on the ceiling… this turned into quite a team building exercise if I’m honest!

paper on the ceiling

Inventive!!

The crew arrived at about 2pm, and then we spent some time solidifying all of the technical transitions. Some of the sound volumes needed to be adjusted to allow people to speak over the top of them, and we focused on a couple of lighting changes to make the whole thing flow smoothly. Hannah and Ellie were up in the box doing their thing, I was down on the floor shouting up to them at various points and the actors skipped the middle of the scenes and jumped from one end to the other. It was definitely worth doing because it all felt nicely under control by the end.

With rehearsals done for the day, we had to make the theatre space ready for the performance. The exact number of chairs were set out, props positioned, floors swept and dressing rooms filled. We also had to find some black material to cover the glass panels on either side of the stage, because with the stage lights on they act like mirrors and seeing your reflection when on stage is really not ideal! Everyone worked very efficiently together and we were ready in no time!

By now it was about 4:15 pm, so we took an hour and a bit to sit outside and chill before building up to showtime. Pizza was ordered, tracked and eaten; snapchats were sent to try and sell the last few tickets, and then it was time to warm up. Some vocal and physical exercises, and a tongue twister version of the classic Zip Zap Boing made us all very lively, but we managed to calm the room with our favourite concentration game by the time 6:30pm rolled around.

Almost there! The cast went off into the dressing rooms to focus and prepare, and the front of house team set up ready for the audience to arrive. It was very exciting but also very nerve-wracking waiting for the curtain to go up (metaphorically as there wasn’t an actual curtain). We had an audience of 79 after some tickets had been sold on the door, which was fantastic and filled the auditorium to give the actors a brilliant atmosphere to work with.

What an evening it was?! Watching the beginning of the piece I was pretty nervous, but as the actors showed just what they were made of, I began to relax and enjoy watching what we had created. There were some fantastic performances, and all of the cast members really responded to the audience and upped their game from the runs we had done in rehearsal. I was so proud of every single one of them!

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Photos taken by Katie Walton

The response to the piece was better than we ever could have expected. Thank you so much to everyone who came to watch on Saturday night – you were a fantastic audience who supported us from beginning to end. The reach that this project has had is amazing: there were definitely more people in the audience who I didn’t know personally than I imagined, and we are all so grateful that you came out to help us support Young Minds and tell a very important story.

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With another performance on Thursday, we are back in rehearsals today in the new space re-configuring the piece for a different audience layout. Everyone seems so fired up after Saturday night. I am so proud of what we are doing for such a good cause, and so grateful that people have been so supportive and engaged with what we are doing. Thank you! xx