Early trains, two of them to get me to Banbury. Then the 488 bus to Chipping Norton, which arrived so I had a good half hour before the meet and greet with the acting company. The van was already being unloaded with the set pieces that had been built in Cornwall.
There was time to make sure all was well before I’d be needed elsewhere. Unfortunately there were two pieces that wouldn’t fit through the front doors! I had given Ade and Lou what are known as the ‘Get in’ dimensions. The two offending pieces had a very quick straight cut put through them which will be disguised with a lick of paint when I get round to it.
The first day of rehearsals starts with meeting all the actors and other creatives, this is followed by a read through. This was very funny indeed, plenty of jokes for both old and young. Then it was time for Helen (the costume designer) and myself to be centre stage and show off our designs to the company.
Over lunch time there was a production meeting with Lighting Designer, Sound Designer, Props Maker, everyone involved apart from the actors. My world that normally revolves at about 3mph was suddenly accelerated to ten times that speed and that is the way it has stayed for the rest of the week.
Monday saw the portals being put together and fixed in position on stage. By the afternoon a second van arrived with barrows, hanging baskets and the start of a telephone box. Plenty for me to paint.
Late afternoon I walked round the corner to pick up the key for my digs and drop my bags off. I’m staying in the same digs as last year, so no need to be shown round, just a quick hello to Suzanne and Pepper the cat and I was back at work within fifteen minutes.
Late evening we all retired to the pub where on the menu there was gluten free cider battered fish and chips, I obviously had no choice. The portion was huge and I did consider keeping half for the following day, but I did my best and polished it off.
Tuesday more set pieces went up, sliders were suspended. This all took time as the floor of the stage is by no means flat, in fact it dips by getting on for two inches towards centre stage!
I took over the front foyer, painting smaller bits of set. Hanging baskets, kitchen counters, the telephone box. By late afternoon it was time to say goodbye to Ade and Lou. They very nicely gave me two bottles of this years apple juice that they’d just pressed.
Wednesday was props meetings with John the Director and Jo the Props maker. The scooters Jo has made are wonderful. The huge vault door wasn’t opening quite far enough, so some major chamfering back of the built hinge was needed and I then had to promise not to put too much paint on it all.
With the crew putting first and second coats of paint on things for me I could concentrate on doing the arty painting. Late on in the day more people headed home, leaving me with Gavin and Ash to carry on.
Thursday the actors started to rehearse on stage. By 4pm the Pippins had joined them. These are local kids who get chance to be in the panto. There are three teams of four, songs are learnt on mass, but stage directions and dance routines all have to be done three times. I’m just about word perfect on some of the songs already!
This also meant that Gavin gave his health and safety chat to the kids. When I realised he’d started I made sure I went into the auditorium to listen. Sadly this year he’s changed the wording somewhat, Death wasn’t mentioned once!
During the evenings the stage is available for painting at the moment, so I’ve made use of Ash and Gavin to get more pleb painting done. This does mean that even though I’m last in the building I also tend to be the first, touching in the bits they’d missed before the actors start rehearsals.
By the end of Friday night there were just signs and barrow dressing left to do for the market square scene. This scenery possibly has the most work, so on Saturday I treated myself to a sit down in a dressing room doing all the signage. The complicated floor has also been marked out, I just hope it’s still there after all the dancing next week.
Once these were completed and a few jobs finished on stage I headed to get a Saturday newspaper and a few bits and bobs that Mick had planned to buy when he reached Oxford, but that just hadn’t happened. Leaving the theatre in daylight was a first this week, as I waited for the bus to arrive it went dark. Only the twinkling lights in Woodstock illuminated the journey back to Oxford.
I considered on popping in to say hello to our friends, Andy and Irene, who were moored at the end of the canal, but by now I was weary and wanting to get home, still with another bus journey to do. Mick met me from the bus and we walked back to the boat by Sandford Lock. After sausage and mash with a glass or two of wine I had returned to 3mph, Tilly doing her best to keep my lap warm in front of the stove.
2 trains, 3 buses, 1 read through, 7 potatoes more,2 big flats, 3 lots hanging baskets, 1 street sign, 1 nick, 1 kitchen unit, 1 ancient Pepper, 4 free bottles Crabbies, 2 bottles apple juice, 1 wet day, 1 newspaper, 1 purring Tilly, 1 cosy boat, 1 day off.