I’m a great one for making an impulsive decision to go and see a friend in a piece of theatre. A few memorable quick hops were to Limerick to see Conor Mitchell’s new music theatre composition Sweeney Todd and to Hamburg to see Fiona Finbury in the English Speaking Theatre’s Comedy of Errors, then visiting the late Vernon Mound’s many productions in Karlstad Sweden. A dash to Plymouth to see Nigel Richards open a new opera theatre piece by Gary Carpenter, oh and driving from Buxton to Perth Theatre just because Donald Maxwell was singing Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd and I thought it would be fun. [It remains my best experience of my favourite piece of theatre] – all spur of the moment decisions with no valid business reason, and probably fuelled by a glass of wine when I booked the flight/ticket.
So the other day when I drove 220 miles across snowy mountains to see Mairi Campbell start her tour of Auld Lang Syne at the Macphail Centre in Ullapool it was another spur of the moment decision blurted out as an idea over dinner a few days before. Cheers. Five hours in the car (sorry Google it wasn’t three hours 50 mins) each way, a hotel room, food and fuel… all madness of course. However, it was a wonderful experience and two idyllic days on the road up and back seeing the magnificence of the country I now call home.[The picture is a quick snap from my phone of mountains reflected in Loch Glascarnoch on the road between Inverness and Ullapool. Just before stopping here I saw a magnificent stag deer standing 20 yards away from me on a slope to the road, watching me drive slowly along the loch. He didn’t stay to be photographed.]
This time it was a pleasure to take Kath’s mum with me and see the landscape through the ever enchanted 92 year old eyes of a former professional geologist. I need to find the perfect book to bring her up to date on the latest findings about continental drifts because she knows there have been giant strides in research since the 1950s but hasn’t had a chance to catch up. [Did you know the rocks of Western Scotland were connected to the rocks of Australia. I didn’t have a clue.]
And of course it was a joy to share with her the amazing music of Mairi and the imagery and beauty of Dave Francis’s poetic song lyrics. Good to report back to Kath director and Kate Taylor producer. The deep attentiveness and warmth of a 50+ strong house of theatregoers was topped off by the whoops and cheers that they offered Mairi at the end. What a welcome, what a buzz.
I was having a meeting with an International Festival producer last week and she has been encouraging her more establishment colleagues to remember to try and find something unexpected when they head off to see the latest global superstar orchestra, ballet or theatre piece. I was remembering how surprised my hosts are when I turn up in a strange country/city to be at a conference or represent a management at an opening, and they find that in the afternoon I popped into the local fringe venue to see whether I could have a look around. I love the process of checking out the smaller theatres, the new projects, and the new creatives somewhere. If this blog has one point it is to remind you to look around the corner, listen to someone unexpected, discover a new venue or company – even if it is a bit of a walk or drive away from the centre. When I remember to do it (and that’s not always by far) it enriches my visit, give me a great talking point at a more formal event, and sometimes points out something or someone that the festival/organisation I represent should/could be aware of.
So along with my declared New Year’s Resolution to see at least one piece of theatre in Scotland every 2 weeks, I will also try wherever I can to say “yes” to the unexpected. My life is odd at the moment because I have many “irons in the fire” and I spend much of my time blowing on each and every one of them to see which one will glow bright and help me forge a new project for the next 1,2,3 or more years. Some will die in the embers of a good idea at the wrong time/place. Some will, I hope, benefit from whatever the universe is throwing me where I have the chance to say “yes”.
For example, an acclaimed theatre Director has asked me to go to Perm in Russia in three weeks to talk about creative producing and new musical theatre development. Why not. I said Yes. What a wonderful chance to see some extraordinary (I hope) Russian theatre productions, meet some fellow international panellists, and maybe find something unexpected which will add to the glow of one of my irons in the fire.
Next weekend at D&D Kath and I will also look out for unexpected conversations, and relish meeting new creatives with a passion for making stuff happen. Can’t wait. See many of you there I hope, or get involved on twitter.