“Absorbing theatre – the UK needs you!” – that’s just one example of the feedback that Richard and I received last week for ‘Naming The View’ on our mini tour with Highlights Rural Touring. And it proves to me that as “entertaining and funny” as the play is (and 58% of our audiences described it as such), there is something much more important going on here.

Naming The View Tour Poster

Naming The View Tour Poster

Highlights Rural Touring operates across Cumbria, Northumbria and Co Durham. It’s a brilliant scheme that brings professional theatre, music and dance to far flung rural locations. The obvious benefits of this are bringing communities together and enabling the elderly, the infirm, those with transport worries, those who just don’t fancy or can’t afford to travel to bigger towns and cities, to see high quality drama, comedy, musicians and dancers on their doorstep. There are schemes like this operating nationwide – check out the National Rural Touring Forum to find one near you – and they are amazing, not only for the communities but also for us performers. What a fantastic way to see the countryside, catch up with old friends along the way and, in the case of NAMING THE VIEW, bring a “powerful, needed, relevant, moving, witty, captivating, heartwarming” show to some pretty isolated areas.

The bench on the top of Cleeve Hill

A perfect Rural Touring Set!

We began our mini tour at Wetheral Community Hall near Carlisle. A bright, modern building including a hairdresser’s and a herbal therapy business! Lovely Sylvia welcomed us, fraught as we were after going up and down the M6 twice thanks to a combination of the SatNav and our own incompetence! A cup of tea and all was well however and the show went beautifully. Here’s a quote from the feedback from Wetheral “The acting was convincing, the subject very relevant today. Left us all entertained and with much to think about. Really hope this play gets to a wider audience.” Afterwards we met up with Connie, our greatest fan in Cumbria, and only wished we could have adjourned to a pub to chew the cud properly. But alas ‘the moving finger writes; and, having writ, moves on’ and we had to do the ‘get out’ (all of 10 minutes) and head back to the cosy Travelodge on the M6 – oh the glamour!

 

The end of a long drive and the first night of the tour.

The end of a long drive and the first night of the tour (NB G&T not cup of tea!)

The Haltwhistle Paradox

The Haltwhistle Paradox

 

Friday morning saw us setting off across the country, courtesy of the A69, to our friend Henry en route to Felton Village Hall. On the way we stopped off at Haltwhistle for a cup of tea – now here’s a fascinating fact. Directly across the road from the cafe was The Centre of Britain Launderette, so called because Haltwhistle is in the centre of the UK and because (apparently) here the water drains down the plughole clockwise at the front of the shop (south), anti-clockwise at the back of the shop (north), straight down on one side and not at all on the other! The Haltwhistle Paradox!

Moving on then, we arrived at Henry’s in time for another cuppa (do you see a pattern emerging here?) and then set off for Felton Village Hall, not very far away. Henry came too as our sound engineer for the night, and what a great job he did. And another great evening – thanks to lovely Judy we were fed, watered (well tea-ed of course!) and then had a cracking evening, meeting some lively and brave people afterwards who told us their stories. And here’s the sort of feedback that makes a trip like this worthwhile “Excellent play for an intimate setting like Felton Village Hall. Really grateful that such great performances and plays come out on tour like this – really appreciated.”

First arrivals at Middleton and Todridge Village Hall, Northumbria

First arrivals at Middleton and Todridge Village Hall, Northumbria

Saturday night found us at Middleton and Todridge Village Hall with George at the helm. This is a rural village right out in the middle of nowhere (it seemed) but it was a beautiful drive over with more tea on arrival! We had Henry on board again as our sound engineer extraordinaire and he was lucky enough to win the raffle into the bargain! Now George had also contacted Northumberland Domestic Abuse Services and so we were fortunate to be joined by service manager, Karen Richardson, for the post-show discussion. She had some alarming statistics, not least that in the whole of Northumberland (almost the biggest county in England), there is only one refuge with just 9 spaces available for women and none for men. She left us with plenty of literature to take on to our fourth and final venue and a lot of encouragement to keep going too. And again there was appreciation for bringing professional theatre to a rural location “Both actors were engaging. Thank you for coming this far!”

So Sunday came and, after a walk by the river in Warkworth, followed by brunch, we set off again for our final stop on the Highlights tour.

Warkworth Castle and the River Coquet

Warkworth Castle and the River Coquet

Richard and Henry strolling by the River Coquet, Warkworth

Richard and Henry strolling by the River Coquet, Warkworth

On the way to Bardon Mill, the view from St Oswald's Church, Heavenfield, Northumbria

On the way to Bardon Mill, the view from St Oswald’s Church, Heavenfield, Northumbria

As we did every day, we went through the play on the journey, only this time we were able to do it with the help of a real view rather than just the A1!

Bardon Mill and Henshaw Village Hall is another modern, bright hall with floor to ceiling windows looking out onto grass and trees. What better backdrop for NAMING THE VIEW?! We had no stage and no lighting at this venue and, for a brief moment, wondered if it would be as easy to draw the audience in to our imaginary world on Cleeve Hill. We need not have worried!  “Absorbing theatre” “Should be widely viewed” “Powerful performance on an important subject” And cheering, yes cheering, at the end!

To top off our tour we had the pleasure of meeting, talking and spending time with the wonderful promoters Geeta and Libby. Two more generous-hearted, brave ladies who were quick to put the kettle on and get out the cake! The final post-show discussion again proved what an important piece of work this is for raising awareness of domestic abuse, coercive control and economic abuse.  “I enjoyed the courage and perception of the performers/writer. Keep up the good work – the UK needs you!”

So with these words ringing our ears, we headed south, homeward-bound, via Eppleby, North Yorkshire where we had another bucket of tea with our dear friends Kate and Mike. And now the work begins again to get this show on the road – I was never in doubt that this is a show ‘with legs’, now, thanks to Cumbria, Northumbria and Highlights Rural Touring Scheme,  I am absolutely certain of it!

naming the view

Kate and Horton meet again.

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