We had our first day of rehearsals for Beyond The Fence this morning in a little church hall in Pimlico. It was very strange: I hadn't been in that part of town for twenty-two years since we rehearsed Big Book For Girls in that very space. Memories came flooding back of the cast sitting outside, eating sandwiches at lunch time. We'd sometimes pop to a local cafe or have a drink after rehearsals in a nearby pub. I was commuting on a daily basis from Essex at the time. In those days you could get a weekly ticket from Bishop's Stortford for some hugely reasonable amount which made commuting a genuine option for a student with no money in his bank account.
On one occasion, the train I was travelling on caught fire and we were evacuated along the tracks. When I finally made it to rehearsals, the director tore a strip off me, telling me he'd wanted me to rehearse music that morning and how dare I be late and force him to change his plans. This was long before mobile phones, so I explained to him what had happened, and that I was feeling a little shaky about everything, and was astonished when he said, "well don't do it again!" In retrospect I realise he was a fairly unpleasant sort who seemed to like the sound of himself shouting, but at that moment I saw red and barked back: "Are you serious!? Frankly, If another train I'm travelling on has the misfortune of catching fire, I'm plainly going to be late for rehearsals again." In fairness, he probably assumed I was lying through my teeth to justify having a lie-in. These days, of course, I would have shown him my Twitter feed, which would almost certainly have been filled with the tweets of disgruntled fellow passengers!
It all feels like another life time ago, really. As I entered the building I wondered what advise I'd have given my 19 year-old self. Funnily enough, the first person I introduced myself to was our show's assistant director, who is a young lad at the start of his career. He's like a mini-version of our actual director. Shorter and younger, but essentially the same look. I wondered what was going through his mind.
Anyway, I felt proud as punch to sit down today, surrounded by the fabulous cast and wonderful artistic and stage management teams. We've finally made it to rehearsals... The show will go on!
We had a read through and Nathan and I busked our way through some of the numbers to give the cast a sense of what was heading their way. It wasn't ideal: I got painfully embarrassed singing out loud and, because all the songs are all in women's keys, everything sounded pretty awful in our voices. We'd also not practised anything, so neither of us knew which harmonies the other one was going to sing! Still, we got there, and I think the cast and team found it a bit useful.
I can't really say too much more about what happened in the rehearsal room as it will potentially spoil your enjoyment of the show when you eventually either see it on Sky Arts or, preferably, live at the Arts Theatre in central London in the last week of February and first week of March. You will all try to see it won't you?