My first week at Year Out Drama

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The first thing my mother said to me when I told her I’d gotten a place as part of The Year Out Drama Company (and their big comeback year), was “Oh thank god, I’ll finally have my bathroom back!” A direct quote. I get my definite sense of priorities from her.

So, it’s been just over a week since I moved more stuff than necessarily required from my parent’s house in Henfield, down south, and up to Shakespeare’s main hang out spot. Y’know, somewhere in the midlands? Near Birmingham? Doubt you’ve ever heard of it probably…

Stratford-Upon-Avon is as glorious and green, and quaint and historic as you’d expect. I never thought I’d see a Starbucks nestled into an old, original Tudor building but as I have come to realise, nothing here is as expected. Like having a view of the biggest Morrisons supermarket I’ve seen in such a middle-class setting; it’s actually rather charming, as it turns out. Neon yellow really lights up the twilight like nothing else.

But that’s not what really matters to talk about it, is it? What I’m actually here to relate is how my first week as part of this irreverent company, and experience, really was.

You want the truth?

Swans. That’s it. Just swans.

No, I kid, but good god there are a lot of them. And Geese too. And Ducks, but no one really cares about them do they when you’ve got great white beasts owned by her Majesty swanning on past (see what I did there?? Swanning? Huh?? No? Well…buckle up.)

My memory of the exact events of this week is hazy, and I swear that has nothing to do with the amount of wine I may or may not have consumed. But the first stand out memory I have of us, as an (almost) complete company happened on Sunday, at the welcome/intro session. We ended up gathered around the piano at HQ, belting out Hallelujah, Mamma Mia and any other ‘too cool for school’ old age hits we could think of. The group of us who had barely met for more than a few hours, or days.

And that’s when I could feel the ties that bind, wrapping us all together in a beautiful mess of off key harmonies and shaking laughter. It set the tone for not just our week, but hopefully (and as has yet to be determined) our year.

Unless I fall in the river by accident and get eaten by swans before Al and Malcolm can save me, which is entirely possible.

It didn’t take us long in those first few sessions, either walking around the sunshine of Stratford, or moving together in the (great) Gatsby room at The Other Place, to meld together, thin or heavy, the pieces of us as company. Mostly through mutual rage and competitive nature during warm up games, but other more serious stuff too.

It became quickly apparent to me that we are all essential pieces of a work-in-progress 11 piece jigsaw puzzle. And it always helps when there’s solidarity amongst every one of us that we are not flexible enough yet, nor do we have a mutually high level of athletic ability. Realistically, that’s probably what actually bonded us. It’s only the emergence of week 2, and already nobody is muscle pain free, and personally I think that’s the real common ground you look for in fellow actors and friends.

On Thursday we even got the utter privilege to get on the longest train of our lives (seriously, I think the plot of Donnie Darko is real because that was not a normal journey), to go and see Year Out alumni Milly Thomas in her one woman play, Dust, which she wrote and conceptualised herself. I simply urge anyone and everyone and their mother to go and see one of the most gripping pieces of theatre I’ve seen in a long time. I got to see one of the endless list of places YOD could get you to, and the skill and empathy level it puts you at too. And I feel honoured, even though the subject matter hit me hard, because she was me once. And now she’s done that. At a real West End London theatre. And what once seemed like a wild fantasy dream scenario, now seems very real, and very possible.

That’s got to be worth noting, right?

Oozing from every corner – be it Malcolm, Al, Deb, or each other – is this all-encompassing sense of continuous support and joy and acceptance. I’m getting the feeling that even when we fail, we are still going to be spectacular. I’ve never felt so spurred on to have no limits on my ability, to create, to laugh, to learn, to feel accepted and safe. And that’s after a week. And coming from someone who hates clichés and metaphors but just spouted about a million in a few paragraphs.

But, sincerely, everything from our movement classes, voice work, dance, warm-ups, discussions and every dumb and outwardly seeming meaningless thing in between, has been the best and most unexpected gift to me that I know already I’ll spend a lifetime paying back. I mean, they spent an afternoon taking us on an open top bus tour in hair-ruining wind, that they’ve probably done a thousand times over. They really care about us.

Again, I stress it’s been a week. And I’m not being paid to spout rose-tinted rubbish for the sake of good publicity. I’m doing it because I simply want to tell everyone what a damn good time I’m having already, and how eager and excited I am to spend a whole year doing this, doing what I love, with the greatest people.

Like, who gets to say they hang out by the Royal Shakespeare Company and its theatres every day? (The tower of which is the tallest in Stratford, and legally nothing is allowed to be built higher. Thank you bus tour audio guide. I was paying attention).

Very few do. And I’m gonna be counting my lucky stars every day I keep waking up and getting the chance to do this all over again.

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One Reply to “My first week at Year Out Drama”

  1. Lovely to read that YOD has lost none of its magic. My son was in your position 5 years ago. He says it was the best year of his life. Life changing. I hope you and your fellow bunnies enjoy your special year. X

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