Wednesday, October 26, 2011

tour diary #8 - new pitsligo

October 25, 2011

I’ve discovered that the letter of the English alphabet that falls between “l” and “n” on this keyboard is inoperable.  I will continue this account using only twenty-five of the twenty-six letters.
Our brilliant _usician will now be known as T. and our extraordinary production _anager will be designated C.  Other than that, everything should be nor_al and just the sa_e.

A wet day, the rain isn’t falling, but it’s in the air, carried by a cool, westerly wind.  We’re up early, packed and ready for the road.  T. and C. pull up just after nine and we’re off, over the bridge and north up into Aberdeenshire.  The rain catches us outside Dundee and erases the landscape of sloping valleys and sudden hills.  Above Aberdeen the road narrows, turned two-laned and twisty, and we snake north, growing puddles on the side of the road now, trucks blasting by and showering us with their spray.

We pull into New Pitsligo just around 1:30.  It’s a low, stone, slate-roofed town, the buildings lined up shoulder to shoulder along the road like soldiers gathered for inspection. We find the hall which is locked up tight and search, unsuccessfully, for an open restaurant or café.  Back to the hall at two and we’re shown in by two silent scowling townfolk who point at stacks of chairs and file away.  Out front a young guy getting into his car shouts “Are you playing tonight?”  We say yes and he shouts “Are you any good?”  I say buy a ticket and find out and he shouts, “Perhaps I’ll be there and boo!  I’ll heckle!” and gets in his car and drives off.

So the legendary kindness and generosity of the people of New Pitsligo turns out to be true.

We load into the New Pitsligo Public Hall, another wooden, high-ceilinged space and it’s an easy one, through a side door right off the alley.  It’s just the five of us, no extra hands or venue technician to help and this is how it will be for the rest of the tour.  A self-reliant apocalyptic quintet: bringing it in, setting it up, shouting and singing and cursing for just over an hour and then breaking it down and on to the next town.

We check into the hotel, just down High Street, very nice digs for a little town out in the wilds of Aberdeenshire.  Naps, soup in the restaurant downstairs and back to the hall to focus lights and get ready.

A gang of old ladies waving their canes bursts in out of the rain about an hour before curtain.  They agree to wait in the kitchen until we open the house.  Outside the cold rain continues to fall and I worry about our crowd.  On a wet and wild Tuesday night in New Pitsligo, who wants to see a dark, brutal cabaret about the end of the world?  We’ll know in an hour.

At seven people appear, crowding in the tiny hallway that is our lobby.  And they don’t stop, a steady flow of couples, groups of four and five, sitting and talking and laughing together.  I realize that they all know each other, of course.  This is the village theater-going crowd.  They see everything that passes through, regardless of title, poster, reputation or reviews.  I feel a weird privilege in playing for this tribe tonight, knowing they will talk about us the next day in the shops and on the corners, weighing us against a shared body of experience.

We put up every table we have and line chairs up along the back and it’s just enough for everyone gathered.  Lights down and the players launch into their strongest start yet, the dialogue crisp and confident, the tone playful and charged.  It continues, our cleanest show yet.  Pace lags a little bit as the show powers on, but that’s an insider’s critique; it’s a great show.

The crowd responds throughout and at the end, one gent even stands at the end, applauding fiercely and grinning like a loon.

We break down, load up and sit in the bar back at the hotel, toasting each other, all tired but happy to have known New Pitsligo.   

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