We arrived at Ham House for 8am and endured a nerve wracking start to the morning with all eyes on weather tracking apps watching pleadingly as the early morning sun clouded over. We got set and tried to start a dress at 10am, only for the attempt to be abandoned ten minutes in as a huge cloud burst erupted overhead. Chess pieces scattered in all directions, props were quickly salvaged, and put under the partial shelter of the box office gazebo, tarpaulins thrown over the tea party and the nervous waiting began.
The early morning forecasts had predicted that the rains would pass through by lunchtime, but by eleven it was clear that little had shifted. Occasional flashes of blue sky were swiftly obliterated by incoming clouds and holed up in the cafe morale began to deteriorate. We shifted our own bags and costumes into the van and began to make contingency plans for perhaps performing the show on the buses bringing the children from local primary schools.
... but just as despair was about to set in the wind changed and miraculously carried the bombastic clouds north. The rain stopped. We were quickly out, just in time to welcome the children and distribute ponchos. The teachers looked sceptical, but the kids were clearly excited and ready for an adventure.
The show itself went brilliantly. The wet weather slowed us up a bit as our stewards took extra care to guide the audience around the grounds. A good job as in the end the Schools brought over 250 children with them. The company were brilliant though, working overtime to keep each of them engaged and safe.
After we waved the buses off we collapsed exhausted for an hour. A strange mixture of relief and elation. Sheer adrenalin had carried several members of the team and they had little idea of how well they'd performed.
By now, though, the clouds were clearing and a perfect evening was drawing in. We reset and went again. Another large audience, appreciative and clearly enjoying both the show and the stroll around the gardens. Gorgeous light cutting through the clearing storm clouds giving the production a very handsome look.
Wonderful well earned applause at the end. It really couldn't have gone much better.
Mark is the Academic Director of the Drama Programmes at St Mary's University in Twickenham. He has worked internationally as a theatre director and educator for the past 15 years, focused mostly on youth, community, and conflict resolution work.
As a lecturer Mark taught at Goldsmiths College, Coventry University and was Head of Performing Arts at Canterbury College prior to joining St Mary’s in 2006.
His Professional directing credits include Henry V (One of US?) and Valhalla for RSC Education; The Wind in the Willows, Jack Cade, The Red, Red Robin for Sevenoaks Playhouse; Tender Souls, The Quality of Mercy and Playhouse Creatures for the Ambassadors Theatre group.
Mark is a director of subVERSE Theatre company for whom has directed fringe premieres of Chief, Dinnertime and OxfamC**t at Theatre 503.
Site specific work includes Purka and Shadow on Icelandic volcanoes and Novocento with students from the University of Genoa.