I’m in the very lucky position that my work allows me to take an exciting trip a couple of times a year. Sometimes it’s to somewhere really amazing, sometimes less so. I’ve spent years balancing my life so I can take the time off work for this and still afford to pay my rent. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a luxury that many would kill for. But I want to be really clear on something… these aren’t holidays. This is a common misconception and people seem to have the idea that I’m just off on a jolly for a week or two.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. That’s not to say it isn’t my choice to go and that I want to but, believe me, it’s no holiday.
So let’s put this one to bed once and for all. Why my trips away are in no way similar to sitting by the pool with a cocktail…
Taking a show on the road is really exciting but it’s also a logistical nightmare. If we had all the money in the world, then yeah, it would all be much much easier. But we’re on a shoestring budget and have to be as smart as possible with our money. This often means cramming set and props into our suitcases and boarding a very uncomfortable, very hot coach for a 9 hour journey. And the coach is merely the filling to our ‘lugging shit across a town’ sandwich. We’ve never stayed in the same place twice so out comes google maps and we pray to god that the ‘close proximity to the city centre’ isn’t a big old porky pie!
Doing a show is tiring
People are always saying “I could never do what you do”, but this is quickly replaced with “it’s only an hour a day” when you say doing a show is tiring. You’re right though, the actual show part is only one hour. Not long at all. It’s over in the blink of an eye really. But when you break down that hour, it’s probably harder work than you’ve done over the past week combined. Talking. For an hour. Straight. Don’t underestimate just how hard your brain and body have to work to bring out all the right words at the right times, while ensuring your body is operating correctly. And shows don’t happen in a vacuum; you’re constantly taking in every sound, every audience reaction and tailoring your performance with split second reactions. Give it a go. One hour, 9500 words and god knows who in the audience… GO!
Unfortunately, our days are not spent seeing the sights and enjoying the local cuisine (unless you’re talking about fish and chips in Scotland). I’ve not spent about three months of my life in Edinburgh and I’ve never been to Arthur's seat or inside Edinburgh castle or anything like that. I’ve seen a lot of the royal mile. Oh yes, a lot of that. Our days are spent walking up and down a cobbled road, handing out flyers to people who wish you would disappear. But we’re not going anywhere. We’re here everyday and we can’t leave until be get rid of that days flyers. Usually about 500. That’s a lot of walking, a lot of rejection and then we have to go and put a show on. During festivals you have to do whatever you can to stand out, so when we’re not flyering, we’re blogging, making videos and recording podcasts. And emailing press and all that boring shit. Yawn!
There’s not a lot to say on this one. But our budget doesn’t get you very much. Last Edinburgh I slept on a blow up single mattress on the floor with a very persistent mouse running all over the place… I did this for nearly a month. Enough said.
Sometimes these are a welcome pick me up in the middle of a run. But not always. Now, luckily, I’ve never been soaking in the sun and had some random person come up, sit next to me and slag me off for three paragraphs. I hope you haven’t either. But reviewers are out their all the time, quietly lurking in the audience with a notepad waiting for you to have an off day… and BAM. Holiday over.
Holidays are about spending money and not thinking about it too much. Our trips are about making money. This is a business after all. Everything costs money and if we don't make that money back, that’s us done. So there's a lot riding on these weeks away. We need to make the show work financially so we spend a lot of time counting money, working out what we still need to make and how to do it. We’re not just arty-farty performers, we have to be business people to. And making money out of theatre, well that’s a skill.
Work Work Work
Before I go away I try to work right up to the wire so I’m as financially prepared for my time off as possible. At festivals we don’t take days off. Day’s off don't save us any money but they do stop us making it so It’s important that we squeeze every penny out of each performance opportunity. And when it’s all done, it’s straight back to work. That can be up to a month and a half without a day to just sit in front of the TV without having to think or worry about anything. So yeah, It’s work work work during and on both sides of these “holidays”.
All this being said, I love what we do and totally appreciate all the amazing opportunities we get. It’s certainly not all doom and gloom. We spend a good amount of time making friends, drinking and seeing incredible shows. But I just wanted to show you all the flip side. It’s hard work. So when I return to work and I’m knackered, please don't say “you just had a week off!” Because I didn't. I really didn't.