Touring is hard.
One of the hardest things you’ll ever do.
And they don’t tell you that in your interviews or auditions.
On the first day of rehearsals for a tour, I always stare around the circle of my brand new colleagues as they all announce their name and what it is that they do, and wonder exactly what role they will play in the next twelve months of my life. Will I love them? Hate them? Tolerate them? Fear them? Will they become a friend for life or just simply a colleague, with whom the relationship will cease as soon as the final curtain is down?
It’s usually pretty hard to tell, as for a little while everybody does a fairly good job of pretending to be relatively normal human beings. But then before you know it you’re out on the road, seemingly a million miles away from friends, partners, children and the place you call home.
You enter your strange and bewildering new lifestyle of chaotic monotony.
And that is when it gets tough.
Touring is harder than other jobs in theatre as a whole new layer of complex ‘Life Admin’ is added to an already demanding job. Digs have to be sourced, travel has to be booked and alien town centres have to be navigated around. All the while wondering things like ‘When can I wash my pants?’, ‘Is there a gym I can use?’ and the all-important ‘What is the polite length of time to wait before asking my land lady for the Wi-Fi code?’
Having done this for a while now I am familiar with a lot of touring locations and can answer a lot of questions. But every so often, touring life and the strange anomalies that it presents still trips me up. And I find myself thinking,
‘I need help.’
Recently some friends and I have started to think about the possibility of starting an open forum for all touring professionals. A place where you can ask for help or advice about the places you’re about to visit as well as sharing what you have learnt about a place as you leave.
Let's face it.
Every single year hundreds of us freelancers go out on tour and journey around the country, making mistakes and discoveries and learning about the towns we are travelling to. And if there is something I need to know about a place I’m about to tour to, I can’t help but think;
‘Someone out there knows the answer to this.’
Maybe it’s someone who toured there last week or someone who works there permanently, or someone who just lives in that area. But someone somewhere always knows the answer.
You just need to ask in the right place.
The main things that people always seem to want to have prior knowledge of are the following;
- Good pubs
We all know what its like when you have spent the whole week drinking in a crap pub, only to find the absolute gem of a watering hole on the final night. So what if you could turn up already knowing where to go. Because the company who had toured there the week before had bestowed you with their valuable ‘knowledge’. Or what if you could ask them if they had managed to find a good restaurant that seated twenty and stayed open after 11pm because you were coming next week and had a birthday in the company?
When I asked on social media I got a whole load of other things that people wanted to know about;
- Running routes
- Yoga studios
- Dry cleaning and launderettes
That last one is pretty important to me. Its tough having to brave beauty parlours and nail salons when you don’t know the area or have any kind of recommendation. Past mishaps have involved an eyebrow shaping which left me with a permanently surprised expression. And a Brazilian wax which made my vagina look like Hitler.
Anyway, I’m starting a Facebook group where we can all share this info. A place where you can post a query about the topics listed above, and hopefully get an answer. The members don’t just have to be touring professionals. They can be people who work at the venues, people who have local businesses such as childminders, or just people local to the area who are willing to help us as we pass through their town. You never know when someone may have a spare parking space somewhere or can offer basic knowledge.
And if you are on tour and find the attraction that offers discounts to Equity members or the unbelievably great cheesy nightclub, share it. Tell others in your chosen profession about what you know. Even if it’s a quirky little tip like chucking a door wedge in your suitcase (handy if your digs bathroom doesn’t have a lock) or if you’ve discovered the perfect set of camping cutlery including a handy case.
Those hints and bits of advice which can make our bizarre lifestyle a little easier.
The only way this will work is if we have a large number of people so feel free to invite people and spread the word. The group on Facebook is called ‘Touring Together’ and there is a Twitter account (also) named @TouringTogether. If people have queries or info they can tweet the account. And that can then be re-tweeted to a wider audience.
If we gathered a large amount of information we could eventually have a website which could house an extensive and easy to search database. May take a while but it’s definitely possible.
Fantastic groups for digs already exist and there are now so many ways to book them so let’s steer it away from that and just concentrate on the other queries that people have which don’t appear on the theatre’s tech info.
Maybe this won’t work but I figured it was worth a try.
Because touring really can be quite hard.
So let’s do it together.
Thank you so much for reading. And I also wanted to say thank you so much for the feedback and response I got from ‘Boring Bitch’. It’s so lovely to see my stuff get read so widely.
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