Sarah’s tour blog: Writer’s nerves, Wolverhampton and loving what you do

I was really excited to go to Wolverhampton. After receiving the email from a young person at SJT to tell us about his experience (read it here), I was really pleased that The Arena had programmed both a youth performance and a general public performance. I was feeling excited and motivated but ridiculously nervous because my Dramaturg and Mentor, Chris Cooper from Big Brum was coming.

I’m so proud to be part of this team. Each one of us brings something new and exciting to the piece, and we all care about it. This isn’t just a job to any of us, we’re living it, breathing it and being excited by it every day. We arrived at The Arena, which is part of the University of Wolverhampton on the day of the solar eclipse. After the ‘get in’ we joined lots of people outside gathering with their bits of paper and colanders to watch it (we also started a spontaneous rendition of ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’, so if you Crowdfunded us, I’m sure it’ll make it into the tour video!).

That evening we were able to meet and speak to The Arena Collaborative Theatremakers group. They were scratching a new piece of work and the two actors had been in the space next to us rehearsing all day. The writer was really nervous, it reminded me of the first scratch I ever did at Camden People’s Theatre, I felt sick all day having absolutely no idea how an audience would respond to it. It’s such an important process but arguably the most frightening. Neil Reading (Artistic Director), who runs the group and the programme there, has created a fantastic open and supportive space. I hope writers, actors and creatives flock to the group! We need more of these spaces across the country. We need spaces to inspire us, work together, challenge and give constructive feedback to each other and have a space to make mistakes, flourish and succeed.

That night it was Rachel, our BSL interpreter’s birthday celebrations. At Rachel’s request we’d all packed our onesies (they ranged from a bear to Woody from Toy Story!) and had a night in. It felt like we’d all known each other for years, over the past few months we had become a real collective; creative collaborators and firm friends.

With my Dramaturg Chris Cooper and lots of BSL users coming, it felt like a big day. Completing BSL Level 3 has really helped me develop the translation of the script and I was eager to gain their feedback. Having both myself and our interpreter Rachel being able to communicate in BSL was really important, but what was also wonderful was that the company could all introduce themselves in BSL after our training day with Genie Networks and continued to ask how to sign things to be able to communicate more in BSL.

The afternoon workshop ran in completely new directions; each workshop is totally different and is bespoke to the needs of whoever is in the room. It is so important that we create a free space and facilitate the learning of the young people in the room with us today, not yesterday. One young woman started to explore how each one of the characters, and each one of us in society, value our own worth in the world. I am constantly excited by the level of exploration with young people and how much they have invested of themselves into the work. Even when the workshop had come to an end, we were still all leaving up the stairs to the exit continuing conversations about how we view the world and how the world views us. The evening performance and Q&A was just as lively with people within the audience not only sparking questions to us but also conversations with each other. I feel so privileged that we are able to share our work with people and can’t wait to meet more of our audiences.

Wolverhampton – Thank you for having us, being so welcoming, exploring what it means to be human and letting us sing Bonnie Tyler’s classic to you!