We were awoken this morning by the mother of all rain storms and it has rained pretty solidly all day, which is something of a first for my birthday. There were little spikes of joy throughout today, but ultimately, despite being my fortieth birthday, it was one of those days which has to be endured rather than enjoyed.
We got soaked literally just running to the car from our lodgings, but as I walked into the breakfast room, the entire cast of Brass, and many of the other NYMT kids in different shows, burst into a rendition of Happy Birthday. I'm always amused to watch people busily glancing around the room to see who the subject of the birthday wishes is. More often than not, they realise they have no idea and merrily continue, inserting a "la la la" in the appropriate slot.
The cast clubbed together and made me a little wicker box which they filled with letters in honour of the letters I've been getting them to write to each other for the past three months. Apparently every single cast member has written something, and they're all beautifully presented, some in scroll form. It's the sort of thing I might save for a rainy day. Sometimes there are days when you need a little pick-me-up.
As they handed the basket over, they broke into a song from the show, "just remember my face, so I can visit you in your dreams. Pack your bags for an adventure and we'll visit all the places that you've never seen!" I instantly realised there was a little something in my eye!
We did a stagger through of the show first thing, and beforehand I gave them all a little talk about the fact that, exactly ten years ago, the first West End show I'd ever directed in my own right had closed. It's a somewhat tragic story really because all of my friends were coming to see it as my thirtieth birthday treat. Because it was cancelled, we ended up sitting in a Harvester on the A1 somewhere, with me feeling so depressed I wanted to slash my wrists. It was the last job I ever did in theatre, and for the next ten years I worked pretty exclusively in film and TV.
So, it felt more than a little strange to be sitting in a theatre watching a stagger through of my first foray into theatre since that disaster ten years ago!
The run went very well. The cast were, as you might expect, too slow on their cues, and diction was not their best friend, but in the three days I've been away, some of them had made wonderful progress with their characters. I now see a shape of something... Something which needs a bit of pruning still... But something which, with the right breeze behind it, could be very special indeed.
There was another little chink of joy when we downloaded the chords from a song called Du Måste Finnas by Benny and Bjorn, which I played for the amazing Swedish performer in our group. Hearing the song sung in its original language was an astonishing treat. And she did it absolutely beautifully.
The afternoon rehearsal was more tiring, and fairly bitty. The boys performed military parades around the school grounds with an army sergeant whilst the girls were split into different groups, none of which seemed to spend very long doing anything. Nathan and I (with the help of Emma in the cast, who played piano) took Rosie (who plays Emmie) into a practice room for a one-on-one session on her two enormous solos. Nathan worked her really hard but the results were really very strong. She has a voice I would happily sit and listen to for the rest of my life.
The cast were then given the evening off and most headed for the pub.
I did some work... Typing up a load of notes from the run-through. And then joined them for a quick cranberry juice. Sara has gone back to London for a much-deserved sleep in her own bed and I think it's just Matt, Josh, Nick the pianist and me from the creative team who are still in Sevenoaks.
I walked to the pub in dreadful rain with holes in my shoes soaking up the puddles. I passed a very drunk young man on my journey; "hello, fellow traveler" he said. As he walked down the road behind me, I could hear his little voice still talking, this time to himself; "walk in a straight man, for Heaven's sake, walk in a straight line or the world will think you're drunk..." A bit too late for that, matey!