Doing It

About twenty one months ago or thereabouts, I blurted out something in bed that’s gone on to change my life. I was talking to my best friend (texting, on the phone – she hadn’t just swung by and hopped in to keep her feet warm) – and having a moan about some idiot we worked for. A shambolic cretin who never paid anyone, who – we had just discovered – wasn’t even using his own name such was his checkered past of shady incompetence. We were hacked off. We knew something had to give. So I blurted. “I just want to do plays all the time, like, run a theatre company.” There was a pause just long enough for Hew to type “LET’S F***ING DO IT THEN, WENCH.”

So we did. Or started to. Our complicity in those moments turned our energy from low and despondent to wired and exuberant. It was quite an unceremonious beginning really, I suppose. I was in bed for one thing. But it felt important.

Few things we say in a day actually bring about change in our lives. There are small things, like “But I don’t fancy steamed fish tonight, I fancy steak, a bloody big one.”, but rarely something monumental to altering the progression of your time, thoughts, actions, and priorities for a considerable proportion of your future. Something that in its simplicity and brevity at once casts out all other options.

“I just want to run a theatre company.”
“So let’s do it then.”

Our company Old Trunk will turn two in June. I will turn 34. It seems a good age to have realised suddenly, after a life of drifting from thing to thing, that you know what you want.

We have had, I’m sure, an untypically blessed start for a new company. Since our eureka moment we have produced two plays I wrote which have been very well received locally and in London, been funded by Arts Council England twice in an increasingly difficult financial climate with cuts being made left right and centre, represented the Arts at the House of Commons, and appeared in the Sunday Times magazine. Lots of other lovely stuff we’re proud of.

I know that our success so far is largely down to our defiant determination to work our socks off constantly to the exclusion of most other things, to the amazing talent we are lucky to have in our cast Charlie and Edd, but we also owe the angle of our trajectory to some other wonderful people.

We’ve been lucky enough not only to have wonderful patrons, but also to be mentored by an arts organisation called Metal. They heard of our work, and asked us to curate the theatre tent for last year’s Village Green festival. We were honoured. They mentored us through the Arts Council application, offered invaluable help, introduced us to a whole industry load of thinking that we, being new, simply didn’t know and stood no chance of rapidly discovering for ourselves. They came to see our shows, and spoke up about us to other arts groups who didn’t know who we were. We were nothing but a couple of plays and a big bag of vague wishes that might never have been realised, but then we were given the clarity and support to do something with it. Because of their mentorship we are now being funded to take our two plays to the Edinburgh Festival and we’re so happy and excited we can barely make it to the end of an hour without sighing like girls.

We don’t know what the future will hold. We’ll work hard to keep ascending, doing the things we love, and are actually now bolstered even further by the desire to not let our supporters down.

It took a moment of ‘sod this’, of saying “Let’s bloody well do it”, but it also took people believing in us and opening a door as wide as our own scope to dream.

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Review – The Secret Wives of Andy Williams

A review for Old Trunk’s latest play The Secret Wives of Andy Williams, which premiered at Camden People’s Theatre in August 2013.

Low Down

It is rare in film, theatre or any art form to encounter a follow up show, a prequel or sequel that is as good if not better than the first. This unique occurrence has happened with Old Trunk and their new show The Secret Wives of Andy Williams, the prequel show to their stellar hit production last year, Watership Breakdown; The Bastard Children of Remington Steel. For background both shows are set in a nunnery where orphans and strays are taken in and looked after.

Review

Secret Wives of Andy Williams is every bit as quirky, honest, funny and engaging as the last production and yet manages to retain the same voice despite being about the nuns taking the front row seat over the orphans. Only one character remains as the through line, Sister Mabel Matthew, and yet the style is the same and so it feels undeniably like a prequel. The characters are exceptionally well formed and it is clear a huge amount of work and passion has been applied to enable the audience to fall headfirst and fully immerse in the stories of these likeable, unique characters.

The team of performers are very tight knit with only one actor different from the production last year. The addition of Edward Mitchell as Susan and Sister Gertrude has added a wonderful new dimension to what was already a fantastic group dynamic. Mitchell adds a sparkle and twinkle to this strong female trio and the balance that is created ensures a great sense of harmony. Mitchell is an excellent character actor, seamlessly switching from one to the next with not even a beat. Men, women, old and young are all delivered with the same level of passion and commitment.

Sadie Hasler is truly destined to lead the charge as we discover the next generation of prolific writers in the UK. I wouldn’t be surprised if she is not the name on everybody’s lips both for theatre and TV in the next year or so and I can certainly say I was lucky enough to witness the humble beginnings of that greatness at the Camden Fringe. Her trusty co producer and exceptionally talented actor and comedian Sarah Mayhew yet again reveals her attention to detail with character; playing Sister Clara, the obnoxious yet misunderstood Enid and Queenie Bee, all completely unique and utterly convincing. Charlie Platt is delightful as the confused young nun Caitlin and her sense of fun and innocence in this playful role is totally charming.

Hasler has delivered another little piece of heavenly storytelling to the stage and no doubt there are many more to come! I for one cannot wait to see what’s next for these nuns!

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