It’s nearly half way through the tour and I just can’t believe how time flies!
As I write in one of the many dressing rooms at Stantonbury Theatre in Milton Keynes, before our first show here, I reflect on all that’s happened over the past two months and what it’s taken to get us here.
Rehearsals at Watford Palace Theatre were fun — less of the pressure there is when a play is new, untried and tested, the path had already been laid two years ago when good dog toured in 2017, so there was no denying that the show works, we just had to make sure it worked again.
Rehearsals were full of crafting detail in Kwaku’s performance, helping him to nail the nuances of being in conversation with us — the audience — and whether ‘Boy’ feels the audience is a friend who he can confide in at a certain moment or whether he feels we’re doubting him and that he has to prove himself to us. Our 3-way improvisations — Natalie Ibu (director), I and Kwaku (actor) — were a source of giggles and laughter as we cracked ourselves up trying to discover new things about Boy’s storytelling.
And we will never forget the bike! Before this play Kwaku couldn’t ride a bike so we spent a significant time allowing him to practice and it was a proud moment when we saw him master it.
So many people from various backgrounds turned up and we had an awesome party. The upstairs bar of Watford Palace Theatre was transformed with African print, yellow and purple balloons — our trademark tiata fahodzi colours and when the party got started we enjoyed the yummy selection of African canapés — fried plantain, yam stew etc. their aroma wafting around us as the waiters deftly circulated them around the packed room. Our friendship producer — who only started in January (!) — had already made lots of Watford based African heritage friends for the company bringing people of various ages and backgrounds to party with us. It was a real tiata fahodzi team effort bringing this together around Kwaku’s brilliant performance, which was received with cheers and laughter at the several comedic moments in the play, it felt like the perfect reception and celebration to kick start our national tour.
10 venues in, it’s been a fascinating journey, each location with their own distinct feel and audience.
We had the most vocal audience members at Watford Palace. It’s a real pleasure to experience the show with people who pick up on the comedic moments and respond to the drama of the story in such an emphatic way. One the most hilarious moments during the show (spoiler alert) was when we reached the part where ‘Boy’ talks about his fumbled first time with the love of his life Jamilla, there were collective sounds of approval from the audience, cheering him on when he says “we did it, then we did it again”.
At Quarry Theatre in Bedford we had a mainly teenage audience of students from Bedford school where it’s situated. I love teenage audiences because of their honest responses — no filter. It was a bit quieter than what we were used to, coming from Watford Palace, but I loved hearing the murmurs and whisperings of engaged teenagers responding to the play.
In Sheffield the staging was slightly different to the end-on configuration we’d made it for, with the audience being on a sort of ‘v’ shape in relation to the box that makes up our set. The effect was the feeling of being held or embraced by the audience who felt so warm and inviting. The brilliant team there supported us to get in easily and our experience of the audience mirrored that support.
Northern Stage was also slick and smooth to get in and our set and lighting looked it’s most striking in their space. The audience were polite, a bit reserved but it felt like they were with us every step of the way. It was great to be in Newcastle for the first time and see how vibrant and alive a city it is.
One of my favourite audience groups was the one on our first night in Scarborough, at the Stephen Joseph Theatre. A mainly white elderly audience giggled and laughed their way through lots of it and at the end gave a standing ovation with whoops and shouts of ‘brilliant!’ It’s a great pleasure to see a play you love and are involved in making, being received with such positivity. While we were gearing up for this performance, we were joined by Mark Lamb, a local photographer who took some striking photos of us prepping.
Photo credit: Mark Lamb
We loved being in Edinburgh and at the Traverse, it was interesting being there without the hustle and bustle of the fringe festival — August being the only time of the year that I’ve been to Edinburgh in years prior, so it was nice to be there in the relative calm. It’s a city I fell in love with years ago, walking around enjoying the beautiful architecture and natural sights, whilst rushing to get to various theatre and performance spaces in time to watch my list of shows. Watching the audience here in February, it seems they also fell in love with us, they seemed to get it.
Well, if I was to talk about all 10 venues in detail you’d be reading forever but suffice to say, it’s been an exciting experience so far. Kwaku is working hard maintaining as high a standard of performance as possible, and the team are being diligent in getting the sound, light and set just right to pull off this epic one man play — no mean feat.
Join us at a place near you if you haven’t already, check out the details on our website. I’m looking forward to getting to know the Milton Keynes audience tonight and I can’t wait to be back in my home town London for a performance at RADA this week.
Anastasia Osei-Kuffour is a writer and director, currently Associate Director on Good Dog by Arinzé Kene and at Tiata Fahodzi theatre company as part of the Artistic Director Leadership Programme. Direction includes: Cuttin’ It (Royal Court UK Schools Tour) and Footprints On The Moon (Finborough Theatre).