Bradford: Blue Peter Badges and the Highs and Lows of Touring
No week on Dream 16 is anything like the last. Our Associate Director Sophie Ivatts is in Bradford this week with a new company of amateur actors, a new group of schoolchildren, and Blue Peter presenter Radzi Chingyanganya joining the Dream team!
Radzi had been set the challenge of being one of the child fairies for opening night in Bradford. Having come to rehearsals in Clapham for a day way back in January, there was a lot more to learn now that the show was fully developed. I did an intensive rehearsal session with him, taking him through the scene-work, the song and the Bergomask dance.
On the Monday morning he surprised the children of Samuel Lister Academy by showing up at the school gates and taking the bus with them down to the theatre. The professional cast were equally excited to have him, the promise of a Blue Peter badge being enough to get most 30-somethings on their best behaviour! Our adult fairies did a grand job taking care of him onstage and after an intensive couple of days, Radzi made a very fine debut for the RSC. And I got a Blue Peter badge.
Later in the week we went for a company curry. Conversation turned to the challenges of touring: behind the glamorous facade of autographs at stage door, touring often means living out of a suitcase, soulless hotel rooms, eccentric landladies, and leaving loved ones at home. In this respect the experience of the amateur and professional companies on this show is quite distinct. But as Peter Hamilton Dyer (playing Egeus) rightly pointed out, the jobs where theatre comes out of its ivory tower to meet people where they are, are often the most enriching artistically.
Nothing could serve to illustrate this more vividly than the post-show Q&A at the Alhambra: the headteacher of Samuel Lister Academy described the school’s involvement in Dream 16 as a “defining moment” of her teaching career, having set the school abuzz with Shakespeare, and one of the parents of the children in the show broke down in tears as he thanked the team for including his son in the project. And that’s the pay-off for all those lonely nights away from home.