Guest blog: life on the move

Wednesday 13 April 2011

Mark Wilde and Julia Riley in La clemenza di Tito. Mark Wilde is the author of today’s guest blog.

Last week I was in Cheltenham performing in Fantastic Mr Fox and La Clemenza di Tito. I also went to a sensational recital by Shuna Sendall, Helen Johnson and Tim Carey, saw the Puccini double bill (also terrific), found an Italian deli with awesome ice-cream, played rounders with the gents of the company, went on a girls-night-out with the ladies of the company and watched an entire series of a TV drama on my iPad.

On show days, I like to wake up in the town in which I’m performing, especially if I’m singing a big role like Tito. We’re required to report in with the theatre by 1:00pm so that the production team have a chance to ready our understudies should they be required. Should I forget to do this (and being a bear of little brain, it has been known) then I’d expect a call from Vicky, our lovely stage manager, enquiring after my health and my whereabouts.

After signing in, I usually take my bag up to my dressing room then grab a coffee and sit in the green room, which has WiFi, and do some email admin. The Everyman Theatre in Cheltenham has a comfy green room and a huge rooftop balcony – this week we were all out sunning ourselves on it. Gradually, my colleagues will arrive and we’ll plan an entertaining diversion to pass the time before our work really begins. This can range from the aforementioned rounders match, a cinema trip or, if our resident mistress-motivator Abigail gets hold of you, a Zumba workout session! I’ve avoided that so far but there’s plenty of tour left…

The cast usually meet up with the conductor for a recit call around 4:00pm to go through the sung dialogue. This is useful as it helps us get the text to the front of our minds and can help us explore new thoughts, which keeps our performances fresh (I have discovered some real surprises in Tito’s character during the tour so far). After this Julia Riley and I have a short fight call, where we see how the size of the stage affects our big act 2 scene, in which I hit her and throw her across the stage.

At 5:20pm we all congregate on stage with the orchestra in the pit for the balance call. I love balance calls: it means that the show is getting closer and I can allow myself to get psyched up. We tend to pop out into the auditorium to listen to the balance and how our voices carry in the space. There’s usually a discussion about whether the foldback (an amplification of the orchestra relayed on to the stage) is turned up enough and the ever-patient Alex panders to us by adjusting it. It can be a good time to bond and give encouraging words to our colleagues, and tell them that they sound great in the theatre. After this is time to eat a light meal, get into costume and, if you’ve seen our shows, you know what happens next: we have a ball – or is it bawl?

While I love being on tour and think that my life is enriched beyond measure by doing it, I do miss home life immensely. A short phone call at bath-time and the occasional Skype, if I can find a WiFi hotspot, can be the only contact I have with my kids. And then there’s the long calls with my long-suffering-super-mum wife, where all we do is problem solve.

So returning home for me is like going on holiday. I love playing with the kids, taking them to things, supervising homework and, best of all, cooking lovely meals for my wife. I like to think that over the course of a year I have more quality time with my family than the average London commuter. Though our time together is feast and famine, it seems to make for some kind of balance – different, but certainly good.

Mark Wilde, www.markwilde.co.uk

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