It’s Saturday afternoon in a roomy Bradford pub and there are two football matches happening at once. Every so often a roar emerges from the adjoining room and the be-pinted jovial men in this one jump as if tasered and send the youngest one through to see what’s going on. He arrives back, breathlessly reporting the news (“nineteen minutes, four-nil!”) before retaking his place and his pint. As we sit here, alternately typing and reading, ignoring the sports but enjoying the atmosphere, it all feels reassuringly normal.
Last Friday we did our first run through of Prelude to a Number. Iain Bloomfield, Artistic Director of Theatre in the Mill, came in to watch. After we staggered through, messing up lines and staring aghast into the various chasms that kept appearing, he went off with director Leo to give feedback. On their way out, as we were trying not to weep openly, Iain kindly said “you got from the beginning to the end, and that’s an achievement”. It became clear, though, after our full and frank discussions, that we needed to get quite brutal quite fast. It felt muddy, needy and highly strung, like we were somehow managing to simultaneously say too much and not enough.
That evening Leo decided to get a later train back down to London and we hacked and sliced at the show until about eight. It felt like a relief to cut things adrift. Loads of things went: songs, poems, explanations. Parts of the set. It felt ruthless and kind of glorious. We threw out the bathwater and were left, we hoped, with the baby.
(“Eh up!” shouts a man, standing up as the whole table erupts. A team has scored, and it appears to be the right one.)
It’s been wonderful having the whole production team in this week (apart from our producer David, who arrives today but has been sending support from afar). Loads of times this week I’ve looked around and thought how lucky we are to have a team of people to make a show with: director Leo, set designer Flo, lighting designer Mark, video designer Sumit, production manager Jack and stage manager Jane. And then Iain coming in and giving us thoughts and feedback, prompting the Great Tearing Apart and Reworking of Last Week.
Then suddenly, out of nowhere, it was last night. Our first performance. Ben, Dan and I waited for the audience to settle and the lights to dim, and walked on stage. We had been gearing up to this for two years and here we were, about to perform it for the first time. The big moment had arrived. An intake of breath.
And Dan’s guitar stopped working.
(A roar of disappointment from the other room. “Chose the right game here, boys” someone says.)
The batteries had gone. Ben and I stood, awkwardly making hopeful jokes, until we realized he was just going to have to replace it, so we left the stage and went back into the wings. Jack was pounding up the stairs clutching two batteries, headtorch beam swinging. A few moments later we heard the amplified twang of success, and the audience gave a generous cheer. Start again. An intake of breath.
And this time everything worked.
It went well. The show will get better as we relax into it, as they always do. But it was a good first night and people said some lovely things. We are proud of it. What a relief. A massive relief.
We have one more show at Theatre in the Mill, then Stockton Arc on Tuesday and Wednesday, then the Lowry on Thursday and Friday. Please come down, if you are in any of those places. It would be great to hear what you think.
On another note: We are making an album of the show. We’ve been making music as Geddes Loom for years, and separately for much, much longer. We’ve performed nationally and internationally, sometimes paid and more times not. The Arts Council have generously supported us to make Prelude to a Number: to pay ourselves and our team, to create a set and make a show that will live on and tour and develop. We count ourselves very fortunate to have received the support. The funding, though, doesn’t extend to making the album, which is why we are attempting to crowdfund for it.
This week someone asked us how we can be crowdfunding if we have received support to make the show, so perhaps we haven’t been clear about what we are asking for. We are making an album, and we would love your help. If you would like to support us we will be so grateful. Really, embarrassingly, undignifiedly* grateful.
*Spell check claims this isn’t a word. In this case it is definitely a word.
Last night at the end of the show, I asked the audience to tweet about the show if they liked it, and told them about the crowdfunding campaign. I said it awkwardly and badly, peppering my little speech with painful, self-deprecating humour. People smiled politely, and I slunk off stage feeling a bit stupid. But it is hard to ask, especially when you want to tell people that, of course, we don’t think we are entitled to your support, but that it would help us and we would love it. Here is the campaign if you would like to have a look.
(“Drink, anyone?” “Strawberry and lime Koppaberg, please.” “F*ck off, I’m not ordering that, lad.”)
Show number two tonight, and no doubt another glorious Bradford curry afterwards. The men on the table next to me are settling in for their fourth pint, all opinions and good humour, gearing up for a luxurious Saturday afternoon punctuated by the occasional pop of the fire in the grate.
Before the second one, we are feeling good.